Friday, June 13, 2008

Growing Up: Still Just for Old People

So I was reading up on Scott Westerfeld, since I'm currently ensconced in his Uglies series, and in his FAQ he states that while he has written adult fiction before, he is wary to go back because a) adults don't send as much fan mail and b) adults tend to stick to one genre or author and do not venture elsewhere. He said some other stuff, too, but I'm a lazy paraphraser.

It sort of makes me wonder how many great authors I missed the boat on by moving directly from my non-reader phase to my literary snob phase shortly after college. I'm working on that, at the moment reading a lot of teen fiction, and consequently feeling more and more overwhelmed by the day by the amount of adult books that are also out there. I mean, literally, piles and piles of books I'll never be able to read in my lifetime.

It's a dilemma. A coworker and I talked about it today, and it's one of those conversations that always ends like this:

(awkward silence)

I've often joked about wanting to read books by osmosis - simply by touching a book to my face all of its contents would work into my brain and I'd be full of knowledge and pleasure. But of course there's a fundamental problem with this plan, just as with any revolutionary idea: what about the pleasure in the process of reading? In whizzing through books the way I have been over the last few weeks (I feel really smart and cocky and have to keep reminding myself I'm reading stuff written for people whose brains are still developing), I feel myself rushing to get from one book to the next. I used to read in a more leisurely manner, taking in only 20-30 pages in a sitting, usually while waiting for something or riding somewhere, and would stretch a book out over a couple of weeks. And sometimes I'd do this on purpose, just to savor the last few pages of a delectable book (most memorably, Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland).

So here I am, with a hundred pages left of Pretties, both excited and scared that I've got so much to read when I'm done. There's Specials, the third book of the Uglies trilogy, and at some point the follow up, Extras, will come out in paperback. Meanwhile the boss lady gave me a pile of books to read to prepare for the fall season at the store. And, of course, there's my own ever-expanding home library (I swear, sometime soon, I'm going to read Stephanie Klein's memoir, Moose, since, you know, I've got a signed copy at arm's length right now and a girl needs some nonfiction every now and then).

The idea of growing up and giving up on reading (again) scares me. Is Westerfeld right? Am I going to limit myself to one tiny chunk of the literary world (contemporary fiction, authors C through L, perhaps?), or can I fight it, push the boundaries of adulthood and rebel against the tendency toward stagnation? I'd like to think I will. It's not like I'm any good at growing up anyway, and it will be something to do when I'm too old and wrinkly to be seen in public. But only time will tell, and as far as I can see, it will be a while before I let the joy of reading slip away again.

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