Heard the aftermath of this NPR interview today. Apparently they interviewed Joe Queenan, an author. He claims to have read over 7000 books and reads at least 125 a year, reading 60-70 at once. He then went on to trash book clubs as essentially wastes of time for stupid people. Honestly, he came off as quite a holier than thou snob, at least in the limited transcript of the interview. Maybe the full thing was better.
“They’re just stupid. They’re just ridiculous. My problem with book clubs … is one week they discuss something like Anna Karenina and War and Peace and the next week they discuss the stupidest book imaginable. They just discover whatever book Anita Shreve just happened to write or something like that. There’s no theme.
” … The other thing is that when … you read Oscar Wilde or you read Moliere or particularly Shakespeare, I would consider it an invasion of their privacy for me to express any opinion about their work. The market has spoken. There’s nothing that we can add to this conversation. Someone once said about Emily Dickinson: The correct way to approach Emily Dickinson is on your knees.”
I don’t get that. I never have. To say that just because something was a commercial success or was well received in the literary community means that it was either good or bad is silly. Hemingway is revered beyond all reason, in my opinion, but that is my opinion. Hearing the opinion of others is a good thing. Perhaps someone else’s opinion might spark us to try something again with fresh eyes. And the whole idea of “there’s nothing we can add to this conversation” is so closed-minded it truly shocks me coming from someone who is apparently so well read. Why read if you can’t have your own feelings or idea about what you have read? So what if they align or don’t align with what has already been said? Does that make them any less worthwhile?
And as for book clubs, who cares what they read? So what if they read War & Peace and follow it with 50 Shades of Grey? At least people are reading.
On the reading of multiple books at a time, I have done it but only in a few circumstances. I was gone and didn’t have my current book handy or I was reading on Kindle and needed a paperback I could read in the tub and possibly drop in the water. I feel like one should give full attention to a book to fully appreciate it. Granted, there are trash books out there that don’t demand a lot of attention. But I feel the same way about speed reading. If you have to speed through it why bother. Speed reading is for books you have to read. Maybe Mr. Queenan is simply more intelligent than I. I’m sure he’d agree with that assessment.
His must-read list is at the link. All I can say is “predictable.”