Friday, May 4, 2012

On Being A Book Snob...Or, Maybe Just A Reading Snob

So, it turns out I'm a bit of "book snob".

Or maybe, just a "reading snob". 

Now, this is another one of those "randomly-generated-blogs-as-I-was-falling-asleep" sort of things, so I don't want anyone to take offense. Blogging, to me, is often like thinking aloud about a variety of things. As such, I sometimes don't have my filter on, and it's also hard to judge folks' tones over the 'Net.  So, that having been said, no offense is meant by this post, just my random, unfiltered thoughts.

 Anyway. I'm a freak of nature. I understand this.

Ever since elementary school, I've consumed books like air. I was the kid who got to walk over the 'big' high school library to check out books in sixth grade, because I'd exhausted all the options in our elementary school library.  By senior year, I'd done the same.

Now, I read three books at a time. One in the morning for breakfast, one at night before bed, and one for lunch (usually what I'm teaching).  And, hey, I'm an English teacher.  Figure it's sorta my job to read a lot.

And I know that for some people, reading - especially fiction - just isn't their thing.  Especially as an English teacher, I know that.

But I find two things I have less and less patience for as a I grow older:

1. people who say they want to write fiction but hardly ever read it
2. people who say they write horror but hardly ever read it

Again, I understand I read more than the average person.  This isn't exactly a compliment, it's more like an admission of an addiction, or that I have no life.   And I definitely believe in a standard of quality for books, especially as a writer.  In many ways, I've drawn a line in the sand over the kinds of books I'll spend my free time (when not reviewing) reading.   But even then, I read LOTS of different things.

And, as a horror writer, I realized a year ago that my "horror palette" was pretty narrow, so I decided to intentionally widen it.   I'm chronicling that journey over at The Midnight Diner in a series of posts labeled "A Modest History of Horror", under Diner Recommends. 

But I see SO many people posting on Facebook and twitter about their new releases and the fifteenth novel they've self-published this year, and see nothing about what they're all reading.  And okay, maybe they're not as big a Goodreads freak as I am.  Along with being a reading freak, I'm a little of a bibliophile, also.

But still.

I know I'm being judgmental, but the idea that someone is dead serious about being a writer but isn't dead serious about reading fiction just doesn't. Make. Sense.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe one has nothing to do with the other, and I'm just bragging about how much I like to read (and, maybe I sorta am. A little.)  And I know this is the clarion call of old fogeys who fear the future and everything in it, claiming we're only two steps away from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, because hardly anyone - apparently even authors - read fiction or even poetry anymore. 

But I sometimes feel that way.  Even about being an English teacher.  As a teacher, seems like our days are filled with SO many things and tasks we're supposed to do.  I often stop and think: "Wait.  A HUGE part of my job is teaching literature, and the critical interpretation of it. Shouldn't a large part of my job be reading, then?"

And it's the same with being a writer.  In laboring to produce a craft, shouldn't a large portion of our time be spent studying said craft?  Again, slipping into judgmental mode again, probably, but I HATE the following argument with a BURNING passion: "I don't have time to read. I'm too busy writing. If I read more, I certainly wouldn't be able to write NEARLY as much!"

No offense, but in my mind, unless there are hefty advances from legacy publishers riding on you finishing that novel, your argument is invalid.  And, no offense, but if some writers read more, forcing them to maybe write less...

Maybe that's a good thing.  I know it happened with me, regarding short stories.  Once I really started diving into the great short stories written by some of horror's giants, I SERIOUSLY slowed my writing down...because I realized what utter garbage most my short story ideas were.

Anyway, I'm going to end this rant with the following quote. Found it recently on Katherine Coble's blog, and I stole because I love it, and I think it's the best advice for all writers in every genre: 

"Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window." 

William Faulkner   

So, that's it. Stop reading this blog. 

And get reading some fiction.