Thursday, June 17, 2010

Books of the times...

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Do you prefer reading current books? Or older ones? Or outright old ones?

I read them all. There is nothing about the time in which the book was written that is any guarantee of quality, although one would like to think that time provides a kind of filter so that more and more of the greatest works are what remain from times past. When push comes to shove I tend to read more recent books and books from our recent past. Recent books are a good measure of our own zeitgeist, particularly fiction, as wearing the mask of that form encourages a narrative that is not just descriptive of events but is rather of them, out of them. It is like sticking a tap into the heart of our times and seeing what flows beneath the surface. One quality that can be felt in writing of different eras is relationship to time. The quality of narrative flow is different in a book from 1860, a book from 1960, and a book from 2010 because the circumstances that surrounded the writing and the reading were so different. Writing for a pre-antibiotics reader, a pre-World War I reader, a pre television reader, or a pre-internet reader occasioned different relationships to lifespan, to the content of the human mind, to the rhythm and flow of information. I think it is those forces that make me expect a particular kind of music from writing of one period or another (although that expectation is not always met). It is this expectation that unconsciously draws me perhaps to wishing to read a book from one era or another.

2 comments:

Rose City Reader said...

That is an excellent, thoughtful answer. Perhaps trying to understand how people ticked in earlier times is why I prefer older books. Here is my answer on Rose City Reader.

The Social Frog said...

I tend to favor best sellers but it all depends on my mood and some old books have been more entertaining than a new one.