Thursday, June 9, 2011

What affects your reading experience

I'm still making my way through Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican (review coming soon. Soon-ish) but in the meantime I thought I'd take part in this week's Literary Blog Hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase. I've skipped out on the last few because I haven't felt like I had anything to add to the conversation, but I've decided not to let that stand in my way this week.

This week's question is: What outside influences affect your reading experience? Do you think these influences enhance or detract from the experience?

Obviously outside influences affect what I read and how I read it. No man's an island, people don't live in a vacuum, etc, etc. There are the obvious bits such as general hype around the book, if the book is considered a "classic", what friends and family may have to say about it, what the cover looks like*, and on and on**. But Meagan wants to know what other influences out there change the way we read. Fine make this more difficult.

There's a scene in one of the later Thursday Next books*** where the characters discuss how much a reader actually brings to a book and that the reader should get as much credit as the author for bringing a work to life. Without the reader's imagination the words don't have much power. Of course, if the reader has gets so much credit for a book, that means each person that reads a book is going to bring their own beliefs, their own past, their own morals to the table and have a different experience from every other person. The experience could be similar or wildly different. It's not only different people but one person can have an entirely different reading experience from the same book if read at different times.

Catcher in the Rye is an example of this. I first read it at 15, which is prime age to read this. I was sort of a pain in the ass teenager, and now I'm not sure if my English teacher was being nice or insulting when he suggested I read this book for a report because he thought I'd like it. And I did like it. Holden was great, everyone was a phony, angst, angst, angst. I decided to read it again at some point in college and man Holden was annoying. Shut up already with the whining. But I didn't expect this. I expected to like the book just like I did when I was in high school. But my experiences had changed and I could no longer see what 15 year old me saw.

I want to re-read 1984 for similar if opposite reasons. I read this book when I was about 14 and hated it. I didn't think it was a badly written book or boring or a stupid story. I hated it because it terrified me. I just wanted to hide under my bed with my hands over my eyes, because obviously that would keep Big Brother from showing up. But people talk about loving the book so I feel like I should give it another shot. I don't know how I'll react to the book this time, but even if I'm still terrified I'm sure that fear will be coming from a new place. Then I'll even more reasons to hate the book.

*Yes, of course I judge a book by its cover. That's the covers purpose. Don't be so judge-y. Everyone does it. Except blind people I suppose. They are free from cover prejudice.

**See I didn't use etc again. That's called skills

***How often can I bring these books up? Constantly obviously. Also I am going nuts with footnotes today. I'll try to stop.