Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm not who I used to be

Sitting on a fold-out chair long way from home last week, I took to staring at the bramble of branches. I was plodding through my Xmas prezzies – a tall pile of novels that came under the tree, including Blood by Tony Birch and Animal People by Charlotte Wood. These were good books. Literary Fiction. But back to the branches: gazing at their convoluted forms, tree crossing tree, too tangled to tell which was which, it occurred to me, I no longer love literary fiction. Reading them felt like studying for an exam. All I wanted to do was get stuck into my crime thriller, The Drop by Michael Connelly, which I'd picked up at Kmart on a last minute mission to plug some holes in the camping supplies. Connolly is a prolific writer. He churns out procedural thrillers, with a couple of different central characters, every year. I wait for them like a dog outside a supermarket: with a keen sense of anticipation. I whip through them like mad. I want to finish them. I don't want them to end. But until this year, I'd felt like I had enough love to go around for all the books, fiction and non-ficition, under God's given sky. What changed? Books, it's not you, it's me. It got me thinking about why I used read literary fiction. I'm pretty sure I read novels to help me work out how to live. Madame Bovary: avoid boredom. Washington Square: love hurts. There was experience between the covers, about people and how they behaved, that I hadn't learned for myself. Breeze, brambles. I'm not who I used to be.

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