On the surface it may seem that I am too open minded about books and authors. A sentiment often heard is that a person cannot be too open minded about things. It turns out that I actually do not agree with that line of reasoning. I have from time to time heard people state something akin to – “I like all music equally” or “all books are good.” I believe that such views are untenable. Please do not try to tell me for instance that JRR Tolkien (An author that I love) is aesthetically equal to William Shakespeare. Furthermore, there is art, literature, film, music, etc. that on every level is absolutely vile. I believe that a thinking person must express some aesthetic judgment.
Yet, a reader of my blog will observe that for almost every book discussed, I have a positive impression. Furthermore, I write about everything that I read. Indeed, I would contend that I am very open - minded. If I perceive that a work or author has something important to say about the world, or if the story, characters or philosophy are presented in a way that is either aesthetically pleasing or original and innovative, I usually take great joy in the work. This is true even if I disagree with the authors’ opinions or views, unless such views are very offensive. Still when I look at the vast majority of books on bestseller lists as well as what I observe what most people are reading, I think that there is a great deal of literature out there that I would dislike.
So why do I like such a high percentage of what I read? I believe that this is the case because I am very selective regarding my reading material. I am an adherent of Harold Bloom’s assertion, spelled out in his The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, that there are so many worthy books out there, and a very limited amount of lifetime available to read them, and that time wasted on trivial and bad works is unaffordable. I feel that it is important to mention that my own list of worthwhile books is much, much larger and more diverse than Bloom’s controversial and somewhat restrictive Western Cannon. Of course this just makes the problem worse for me! The result however, is that I tend to read things that I judge to be culturally, historically, philosophically, aesthetically or scientifically significant.
I am not trying to get through a list. I take immense pleasure in mining books for interesting and important ideas. It is enormous fun for me to find connections between what I find in literature, philosophy, history and science. In a way, I feel as if I am sitting before an immense jigsaw puzzle called “Human Thought” and I am slowly putting the pieces in. I am having a grand time working this puzzle! This analogy is limited; a more accurate description would be a multidimensional puzzle that is constantly growing. More fun still!
As I seem to have chosen well, I very rarely read works that I do not like.
People will occasionally ask me if sometimes I would rather “relax” and read something with no meaning, no strong characterization or little aesthetic value. While I think that it is fine to read in such a manor if one wants to do so, I have no desire to ever do this. I find that reading for meaning and aesthetic perception is one of the most soothing activities that life has to offer. It does not seem like work, it is pure relaxation for me. In fact, I sometimes lull myself into sleep at as I think about the stories, characters and ideas that I read about during the day.
In a nutshell, I like or love almost everything that I read. I am very carful about what I pick. For me, it is all about exploration and digging deep. This is one of the most fulfilling of life’s activities. Of course the question was rhetorical - I am NOT too open - minded.