I was reading a publishers review of a novel by one of my favorite authors and was surprised to see the conclusion, “Recommended for those who read for more than entertainment.”
My first thought was that this is a stupid statement; after all, who defines entertainment? I know people that solve complex puzzles for entertainment, others dig-up the soil, weed, and plant things that grow for entertainment, a few of my friends love going to the wrestling matches and shout themselves horse whenever the heel is present; my neighbor enjoys sitting on the veranda listening to the wind in the trees and watching the birds flit around. I don’t find novels entertaining or worth my effort if they don’t present some challenge to my reading and my thinking about what I have read.
But I also recognize that there are many avid readers that see reading as entertainment and escape. For these readers the novel has to be somewhat straightforward, the writing smooth and flowing, the characters likable and identifiable, and the situations sufficiently understandable that they could have occurred in their own lives.
I have commented before that I see reading much like food. Sometimes it’s comfort food, simple viands that are pleasant, non-threatening, and tasty: I might add nourishing but if it makes you feel good, does it have to be nourishing? On the other end of the spectrum is that fancy (expensive) stuff that arrives on an oversized plate, surrounded by swirls of color and piled in layers. This is the kind of food that requires annotation to even know what it contains (and you can bet it will contain items of a challenging nature, like strange sauces and organ meats from organs you never knew existed.) But if you’re rushed and don’t have the time or patience to peel back the layers of some gourmet nosh, there’s always the fast food restaurants where you can slam down a few burgers or dirty-water hot dogs in record time.
Now if you are more like Andrew Zimmern, perhaps you need something more exotic or experimental to fire up those taste buds and put a few new kinks in your imagination. I have sponsored a reading group on Yahoo for several years dedicated to literature of a more experimental nature. I’m in the process of migrating the group (XFX) to this web log and will hopefully be able to continue what tend to be interesting reading recommendations and perhaps some exchanges of opinion. I have already been commenting on the XFX reading without actually identifying it (Tropic of Capricorn, for instance) and will continue to do so in the regular web log here at ACOR.
Anyone that is interested can visit the group labeled in the menu at “XFX.” Right now only a couple of group elements have been converted but here is the cover page as it stands now:
This group started on Yahoo. It was designed to concentrate on the types of fiction that we do not normally find on the front rounder at the local big-box bookstore. We call it experimental fiction but it might be considered imaginative fiction, surfiction, and the many other designations that have been applied to fiction throughout the years whenever it doesn’t follow the rules of the mainstream.
Experimental Fiction is a loose term and can be applied to some well-read classics that were experimental in their time, postmodern works, newer efforts such as Bizarro fiction, the West Coast Narrative movement, etc. Simply put, I see experimental literature as writing that is willing …
- to violate the standards of conventional writing
- to approach subjects that are not generally accepted
- to emphasize art before profit.
The current reading list for Experimental Fiction is
- Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller
- The Dog King – Christoph Ransmayr
- A Frolic of His Own – William Gaddis
- Jesus Freaks – Andre Duza
- Parabola – Lily Hoang