Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: The Sad, Beautiful Fact...

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: The Sad, Beautiful Fact...
Date Posted: 5/1/2011 10:34 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,716
Back To Top

Read it and weep.

Very interesting food for thought, especially for those of us who love to read lots of genres.  It makes me think: what do I really enjoy reading?  Can I read things more than once?  If I do, what am I cutting out?  

How do you all "cull" or have you thought about that?  

At the rate I'm reading right now, and assuming I live another 30 years, I have 4.050 books left to read.  It sounds like a lot, but...

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
Back To Top

Now I am depressed!  I need chocolate,   I just won't think about what I might be missing and enjoy what I am experiencing. 

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 11:11 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
Back To Top

Thanks for sharing that article, Vicky. I have often thought about this, much more so in the past few years as I realized that there are fewer years ahead of me than behind me (and joining PBS certainly didn't help as you all made me aware of many more "must-read" books and authors of which I was previously and blissfully ignorant). The article seems to suggest that the only two responses are "culling" and "surrendering." But, in fact, I imagine that most of us do a combination -- at some point, we surrender, but, of course, we still cull. And, while I try to be careful about culling because I like to think of myself as open-minded and don't want to dismiss whole categories of books (or movies or music), the fact is that I have been around enough to know that there are some genres that I just don't like and that I don't feel are worth my time.

I was going to elaborate -- but I just read Letty's response which seems eminently sensible to me -- chocolate is indeed the answer!

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 1:26 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
Back To Top
Interesting article. Im only 42, but this idea has begun sinking in with me over the past couple years. But I don't weep. Like Deb said, it isnt one or the other; its combination of both. This article has helped crystalize my thinking and justify to myself, I think, what my approach has become, and what it will continue to be. Unlike Deb, however, I will elaborate, because doing so has helped me process it, and it might be of use or entertainment to someone else. But this is going to be LONG--read on at the risk of wasting time you could be spending on one of the thousands of good books or listening to good music. :) Anyway ...

I consume new things that are in my particular areas of interest and enjoyment more or less within the same time period that they are produced. Outside of those areas, I tend to wait for YEARS after things come out to decide that they might be worth my time and attention because their staying power has proven that they are of significant value.

Ive come to the conclusion that only a small fraction of even the better "stuff" being produced every year is of truly elite quality and truly WORTH the time spent for anyone, anywhere, any time, regardless of their particular areas of interest. 1-5% is my opinion. To go much deeper than that is worth your time only to the degree that you enjoy it and are drawn to more. The value of the vast majority of even the "good stuff" being produced at any given time (music, books, philosophy, politics, whatever) is really quite limited to its own, natural audience. Either its aimed a niche that doesnt fit me, or its aimed for mass consumption, and that means going for the lowest common denominator.

This point about the scarcity of the truly elite quality has been driven home to me in the past few years in two particular areas: movies and music. I tend to cull all trendy popular "stuff", outside of the particular genres whose average quality works I find most entertaining and enjoyable. Most of the "stuff" it IS lowest common denominator garbage, and I dont want to spend my time sifting through all the garbage for the jewels. I figure the truly elite stuff, the jewels, will prove itself over time with staying power, and I can read/watch and enjoy them just as much in 5 or 10 years as now. If it's really that good, it will still be that good later.

Illustrating the point with movies. First, a background point. Im 42, but my experience with current movies, TV, and music began in the late 80s. We didnt have TV growing up, and music was limited to gospel. Anyway, over the years, Id come to the conclusion that most modern stuff was mindless drivel, not worth my time. My enjoyment of currently produced TV and movies had dipped to the point that Id rather watch sports. Over the past 8 years or so, Ive spent FAR more time watching or half-watching sports than other TV.

So a few years ago, I started looking for older, better movies from before the horrible, modern deterioration of pop culture. I started looking for Top 100 movies of all time; for award-nominated movies from prior decades; lesser known movies from some of the best actors and actresses. That sort of thing. Much easier to find with Netflix and On-Demand. And Ive been struck with how little truly elite stuff there is. Some that were touted as so amazing I just didnt get. I think maybe it was "you had to be there"; had to be part of that culture and time and events, to appreciate it. Not really relevant to today. Actors I really like (Kathrine Hepburn, for example, or Gregory Peck ), even their lesser movies are enjoyable, just to watch their performance. But the overall quality pretty average. Ive found that what I appreciate most about the less-than-great older movies is the absence of gratuitous profanity, sex, and violence. But as far as quality being so much better than modern garbage? Eh, some are, some arent. I realized that it really isnt so much that all the modern stuff is garbage as it is that the vast majority of ALL stuff is garbage. I still gravitate to the older movies because 1) most of the true garbage didnt survive, so thats a big culling right there; and 2) if Im going to watch average quality stuff, then the older stuff wont have the excessive, gratuitous profanity, sex, violence.

On to the music example. Background: I like the 80s best, and not very much since then. I ignored American Idol for six or seven years, but once it had proven its staying power, I decided to watch one season to see if it was worth it. Answer ... uhm ... borderline for me ... and the reason illustrates my point about only the tiniest fraction of stuff being truly elite.

By the time you get to the top 10 or so contestants, its down to some pretty talented people. What do they sing for the contest? The best of the best of former eras--the best selections by the very best singers/musicians from those eras. And I enjoy it most of the time. But when those same singers make their own stuff afterwards? Ive never purchased even ONE single SONG by ANY of them. I dont LIKE the current music trends. I LOVE Adam Lamberts voice. A once in a generation voice. I watched almost all of his season just to hear him. But now Im disappointed--just dont care for what hes doing. So, I will probably still tune into American Idol from time to time to enjoy the performances of the old, best of the best songs of bygone eras. And if any of these contestants prove to have staying power, so that they are still putting out music years after their seasons, then Ill pull them up on I-tunes (or whatever it is by then) and do a quick survey of their body of work to select the best of it.

Come to think of it, the same thing applies in other areas of human experience. There are many good doctors, scientists, etc., but only a tiny fraction end up doing anything of value to future generations. Athletes of the thousands of good high school and college players, only a fraction will be good enough to make it pro, and even then, only a tiny handful will matter beyond their own generation. The amazing game last night is meaningless down the road, except in a few rare instances. And those will be available in ESPN Classics at some point. I enjoy pro basketball and football the most, so I watch them routinely. And I like tennis enough to watch some of the grand slam events. But Ill wait for ESPN classics for the rest.

I love history, so Ill consume anything historical fiction of at least average quality as it comes out. But outside that genre, Ill wait for the judgment of time. For example, I read Tolkien and CS Lewis decades ago, but I didnt read Jordans Wheel of Time series it was at book 10. I didnt read Martins Game of Thrones until a few years ago. (After someone sold it to me as War of the Roses crosses Tolkien!) Movies and TV: I enjoy action and drama and historical settings, so Ill consume most of the average or better rated movies or TV shows of those genres in roughly the same time period that they are produced ... Rome, Tudors. But outside of that, Ill probably wait for time. I rely on that almost exclusively for TV outside my favorite areas. For example, I didnt watch Firefly until years after it was cancelled. But I LOVED it. I watched Sopranos only after the final season had been announced. Went back and dug up the prior seasons on On-Demand, and liked it enough to watch them all, and then the final season in production. I watched the first season of 24 six months ago, or so, and I could see the appeal, but decided that one season was enough.

But after thinking through all this, I realize that in the past couple years, I have been culling TOO much in my reading. Ive become so enamored with historical fiction lately, that I really am neglecting other areas. Ive used challenges to try to prod me into other areas, but not as much as I should. Im an organizer, so I need to PLAN how Im going to expand my reading again, and just do it.



Last Edited on: 5/1/11 6:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 6
Date Posted: 5/1/2011 3:54 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,478
Back To Top

Whoa Sharla! You really gave that a lot of thought and your response should be food for thought for all of us!

At my age (ahem 67) I am only too aware that there aren't that many years left for a lot of reading. If it isn't shuffling off this mortal coil, it may be eyesight, memory or something else that fails. Ah, the joys of the Golden Years! I have decided that one must do what one enjoys most. Read something that may sound silly occasionally; re-read something that you certainly enjoyed; watch that movie Casablanca or whatever over and over if you like it. Mainly, I get concerned that by trying to read EVERYTHING at my fingertips, I could miss out on a LOT - like taking Sunday drives; going out more with friends,  seeing things that the grandkids are doing, etc. I watched my DH help our granddaughter make a sailboat out of recyclable materials (for school) and that was so cute! The sailboat turned out great. Just a little thing like that brought so much enjoyment.

Sometimes I think that we make our lives more work than what they should be. Americans have lost the art of relaxing! of enjoying! Everything seems to be a race to get it all  done/ get it all in. Too bad! Now, I'm off to tell DH that we are taking the dogs for a ride!!!! wink



Last Edited on: 5/1/11 3:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/1/2011 6:58 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
Posts: 1,892
Back To Top

Interesting article.  This year was the first time ever that I've let books go that I had no interest in reading an not felt too much guilt about it.  I still feel guilty that I haven't read any classics this year though.

The thought of having limited reading time is depressing, although I'm 29 so if I live til 80 and read at my current rate I still have about 5,000 or so books ahead of me.  Think of it this way though-we're readers!  Imagine all those poor lost souls who don't read at all and imagine all they are missing out on compared to those of us who need books as much as oxygen. 

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 9:47 PM ET
Member Since: 1/9/2006
Posts: 760
Back To Top

My mother's death at the very young age of 54 brought it home to me how short life is.  I no longer look at my TBR list as something that I must complete.  I see it as a constantly changing suggesting list of things that I might enjoy reading.  Years ago I gave up slogging my way through a book because I "had" to finish it.  If it doesn't hold my attention, if I'm not enjoying the time I'm spending reading it, then I am truly wasting my time and I move on to something that DOES entertain me that I DO enjoy.

 

I don't worry any longer in what I might be missing, I just take the time to thoroughly enjoy what I'm doing at the time.

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 9:52 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
Back To Top

At my current reading rate and life expectancy, I probably have only about 2000 books left in me.  And yet here I sit, having wasted the last hour just surfing around on PBS and facebook.  ***shaking my head***

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 10:21 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,478
Back To Top

See, Christa - that's what I'm thinking about! You say that you just wasted an hour surfing around on PBS and Facebook! Well, what's wrong with that if that's what you want to do? My point is that we seem to feel compelled to read ALL THOSE BOOKS even when we just want to goof around and do something else. There is nothing wrong with getting off base on the books if we are enjoying ourselves. I don't mean to be preachy here, but we need to give ourselves permission to just kick back and have some fun! Read when we feel like it and do other things when we feel like it! Yeah!

Date Posted: 5/1/2011 11:37 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,716
Back To Top

Jeanne, I agree with you!  Life goes by so quickly.  Why not just enjoy ourselves?  laugh

Date Posted: 5/2/2011 7:14 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,478
Back To Top

I think Melani has hit the nail on the head!  It's so sad about your mother Melani, but it is so true about life being so short that we have to enjoy ourselves whenever we can - I really like your attitude about your TBR  list!

Date Posted: 5/2/2011 9:53 AM ET
Member Since: 12/22/2008
Posts: 533
Back To Top

All the above comments are the reason over the past year that I have backed away from the challenges and time spent in the forums.

The whole lot of it was taking up so much time that I did little else.  Like Jeanne, I am over 60, and already having aging issues, so chose

to rearrange my priorities in how I spend my time.

Date Posted: 5/2/2011 10:13 AM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
Back To Top

I get the point, Jeanne.  But I really wanted to be reading instead of playing around on the computer! 

Date Posted: 5/2/2011 11:09 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,478
Back To Top

I understand Christa - that computer stuff can be pretty addicting - been there, done that myself! crying

Oh! and I wanted to add that with you running these challenges, it's hard not to spend time on PBS!!!



Last Edited on: 5/2/11 11:10 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/2/2011 4:49 PM ET
Member Since: 2/4/2010
Posts: 89
Back To Top

This article has made me think about being more picky about the books I will finish.

I use to force myself to finish books I didn't completely enjoy. I may start employing the 100 page rule and abandon books that I'm not really loving. Too many books, so little time should make me abandon books quicker.

Date Posted: 5/2/2011 6:05 PM ET
Member Since: 1/9/2006
Posts: 760
Back To Top

Karen - I keep a list of books that interested me, but didn't seem to be my thing at the moment.  Sometimes I'll have a book that just isn't what I want to read at the moment, so I'll save it for a later day when it's more to my taste.  It keeps me from having too long of a DNF list, although I do still have one.

Date Posted: 5/4/2011 2:58 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
Back To Top

Okay so this thread made me look at my TBR in a whole new light.  I've also started to get the Kindle itch, but I can't justify that with so many books on the shelf.  I've got to get the shelf down to a manageable level before I can scratch that itch. 

I looked at each book on my TBR and asked myself, "Based on what I know about this book, do I think I would be disappointed to go my whole life and not read it?"  Interestingly, I found several books on my HF or CF challenge list that I was able to say "no" to.   Which means I'm only holding on to and reading those books to meet a challenge, while other books that I'd much rather read are sitting on my shelf. That's just silly.   So I came up with about 40 books I can post, about half of those are wish-listed.

I know it's crazy for my TBR to bother me like it does.  But it just keeps growing and growning!