Somebody once said there’s a difference between a man who wants to read a book and a man who wants a book to read.
I still don’t understand what that means, but it sounds vaguely profound, in a profoundly vague sort of way. The quote crossed my mind the other day as I contemplated my endless shelves of books, my cardboard boxes full of more books and the books strewn around my living room. Why? Because these days, I don’t seem to read novels any more.
Is that something that comes with age? Do we find ourselves unable to read fiction because we know full well that some gobshite made it up? There was a time when I used to devour novels. Five or six a week. But these days, I’d be lucky to read one a month. I used to read all sorts of shit, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Martin Amis. Huxley to Stephen King. Kurt Vonnegut to James Joyce I was a completely indiscriminate swallower of fiction. I even read L Ron Hubbard. I’d read Salman Rushdie as quick as I’d pick up some garbage detective novel, and it would have to be a very poor book indeed to make me abandon it half-way through.
There was a time when I’d buy and read the entire Booker shortlist but not so much these days, I’m afraid. Despite my recent enthusiastic review of City of Bohane, I could count on one tentacle the number of novels I read in the last month. I just find it too hard to suspend disbelief these days, perhaps because there’s so much reality about, and yet, I can happily sit through a movie and become lost in it.
This is all a puzzle to me. Is it age? Is it due to the state of the world? Is it because the internet changed the way we process the written word and my brain can no longer comfortably read pages one at a time?
Maybe it’s a combination of all three, or maybe there’s something else that I’ve missed completely.