This week’s installment of the Blue Bookcase’s Literary Blog Hop asks:
Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon? Discuss the affect you believe a book’s “status” has on your opinion of it.
Like a good reader, I try to approach any book with an unbiased, open mind. I don’t like others telling me what I should or shouldn’t think about a book. The reading experience is a fiercely individual one, one which requires a reader to form a relationship with a work completely independent from what others think. That’s how it should work in theory, anyhow.
Any realistic person knows that humans are, in essence, pack animals. We thrive on relationships with others and are influenced by what they say and do. This applies to every aspect of our lives, reading included. We look for the suggestions and opinions of others as well as offer our own – that’s probably the primary reason why I, and many reading this, maintain our virtual pulpits from which we can hold forth as well as solicit the ideas of others.
Classics, upon which mountains of praise and vitriol are heaped, loom large in readers’ imaginations. It’s difficult, if not impossible, not to be influenced by this plethora of cultural and literary baggage. Take a book like Moby Dick, for example. It’s hailed as one of THE Great Amercican Novels at the same time as it’s called difficult and boring. Ahab and the White Whale are ubiquitous in popular culture. It’s impossible for a reader not to have some set of expectations and biases when approaching such a cultural behemoth.
The important thing, crucial really, is that readers don’t allow these expectations to dictate reading choices. Just because Moby Dick is renowned as being boring and difficult, doesn’t mean that its so. And, just because everyone says The Great Gatsby is the end-all-be-all, doesn’t mean that I won’t want to gouge out my eyeballs reading it. Classics, like any books, have a unique personal significance which all readers need to discover for themselves.