I’ve recently read a book about writing, and I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through a book about reading.
On Writing, by Stephen King, starts with a sparse but very engaging memoir before moving into a series of tips and bits and bobs of advice “on writing”. All the usual pearls are mentioned: practise, practise, practise; expunge all adverbs; write for the love of it; briefer is better (says Stephen King?); don’t expect to make any money, never mind a living (again, says Stephen King?)…
I would say that even if you have no intention of writing for yourself, and even if you have only the slightest curiosity as to what’s behind the curtain, you’ll enjoy a read of this little book.
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby, is a collection of columns written for The Believer. He’s giving me a growing list of books, classic and modern, to add to my pile, and doing so with a great deal of good humour along the way.
These two books have in common a deep conviction that fiction, literature, books, whatever, should be accessible, that there’s no place for any notion that reading is only for the posh. In the middle of On Writing I realised that somewhere in me I have this prejudice against Stephen King, even though any book of his that I have read has been great fun. These two books have combined to point out to me how ridiculous that prejudice is.
As Nick Hornby complains, reading’s supposed to hurt, isn’t it? Reading Stephen King (or Nick Hornby, for that matter) doesn’t hurt. It’s fun.
Where theatre, and then cinema, have moved from being looked down upon to being respectable, even cultural, books have fallen by the way. That’s a shame.
I’ve always read a lot, ever since I was able. I remember the first book my parents bought me because I asked for it. I think we were in Newtownards shopping. Either way, I recall defying warnings of car-sickness to read it on the way home. That book was The Owl Who Was Afraid Of the Dark, in big-print kid-friendly paperback. I think that was the book that started a lifetime’s habit.
These days reading is still my most common pastime, almost always for the pure pleasure of it, and it doesn’t hurt one bit.
What about you? Read anything good lately?