From Judi Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs when I was five to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear at twenty-five, reading has been the most profound influence upon my life. Spanning nearly a quarter-century and the better part of a thousand volumes, I have formed connections with the minds of hundreds of authors in which we built worlds together; free from constraints of time, distance, and even all physical rules of reality. I’ve been to places that I will never see, met people that died long before I was born. I have walked on planets which are far beyond our ability to reach, and learned truths of our small world that cannot be found in the lessons we are given in school. I’ve loved and lost people that never existed outside the minds of the author, myself, and the millions of others which were privileged to share the same experiences I have. Some of these created a sense of grief that were no less than if I had lost a real person, and I will spend the rest of my life remembering every one of them.
I love desk. I love lamp. I love books. From the wonderful works of literature produced by David McCollough to the utter shit produced by L. Ron Hubbard, the best and the worst books I’ve read were grand adventures. The books that I chose to read for my own enjoyment to the books I was forced to read in school were, every single one of them, a chapter in my continuing education in the world of literature. I learned proper punctuation from novelists, despite the best efforts of my primary school teachers. I learned the horrors of war from non-fiction authors, despite the best efforts of the American news media to deem it honorable. I learned to appreciate satire from Bret Easton Ellis, absurdity from Kurt Vonnegut, and the beauty of the sublime from J.R.R. Tolkien. At no point have I ever regretted reading a book, regardless of what I thought of them.
Some authors create grand dissonance in the minds of their readers; the aforementioned J.R.R. Tolkien is perhaps the best example of that. It is difficult to find a work of fiction that has been more prevalent in the foundations of subsequent works of high fantasy, yet appreciation for his writing style is, at best, an acquired taste. I cannot and will not argue that his work is unwieldy to some, perhaps even to most. At the same time, I’ve yet to come across a person that will dispute his talents when it came to the creation of compelling fiction. The world of Middle-earth has a history that has no rival for depth, for richness imbued into the cosmological, geographic, and linguistic aspects of the worlds borne from realm of all fiction.
On the recto to that verso, there are authors which write beautifully without the ability to provide the foundation of a classic tale. Perhaps I am one.
It impossible to qualify that which makes up an objective sense of what is quality fiction. I do attempt to avoid the mistake of correlating that which I am not a fan of with that which is rubbish. That I find the works of Charles Dickens to be boorish (and not in the sense that he had intended) does not and will never change that Dickens is an influential force in the world of English literature. That I find the works of Jane Austen to be masturbatory fodder for self-conscious women does not jettison any inherent merits to be found within her novels, nor does it mean that she was an objectively terrible author. She was able to create a connection in the minds of her readers, and she has brought enjoyment to millions. That is and should be the only standard in which an author is judged. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is, in my opinion, the literary equivalent to rat piss; yet I am unable to condemn her for igniting the love of reading in millions of hefty teenage girls, and re-igniting the love of reading in lonely housewives.
That being said, it should be common sense to all that books are not created equal. I take pride in my ability to shape the written word, but I would not lay claim to a talent that matches the aforementioned Mr. Rothfuss. Regardless of how many times it is attempted, it is improbable that a fantasy author will spark the imagination of millions of people quite like J.R.R. Tolkien has. Shakespeare is the undisputed champion of the written verse in English, a language he helped develop more so than most. Never again will we see the equal of Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, or Poe’s The Raven.
I find this to be depressing, but that is neither here nor now.
What is here and now is that I have resolved to create (yet another) running series here at Xalpharis.com. It will not explore humor, such as my posts regarding conversations on Omegle, or the subtle expression of frustration that is the intended hallmark of the Wisdom from Caucasia series. Instead, I hope to delve into and share what it is that I find so wonderful about literature. In doing so, I hope to come to better understand it myself. What I like, what I dislike, and how it has come to influence the person that I have come to be. I will wish you will not hold that against the literature.
(Thank you for inspiring the post, Elaina. There was not much opportunity to work in a mention before, so you can enjoy having the last word.)