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My problem with contemporary…

…literature, I’ve today realized, is that it’s not vetted through the filter of time. There are so many contemporary books that just won’t matter 1, 5, 10, 50 years from now. When children of that generation want to read quality they’ll have a solid filtered selection of books to choose from, books that have stood the test of time. War & Peace and The Tin Drum will still be relevant then; they’ll be just as masterful then as they are today.

Contemporary books though, they’re all new, all fresh, which is all nice but the only reviews they’ve had are from loony critics and professional book reviewers, who I don’t care to read in the first place. They haven’t been reviewed by regular readers yet, at least not ones who aren’t out to just read the latest thing and actually care for quality.

The way I see it, picking up and sitting down with a book is a big investment of time. It takes much longer to discover if you like a book vs. a movie or a song, and by the time you realize you don’t, you’ve already wasted that time. Now I’m all for taking chances and trying new things, but the choice these days – in not just books but everywhere – is ridiculously overwhelming. If I go to the library and look at the new releases, how can I decide “This one and not that one” based on anything but the beauty of the cover or the rave reviews from loony book reviewers?

So it is that I choose to read the classics that have proven to stand on their own merit years after their publication. I have taken chances, a few times, and more often than not I’ve been disappointed. Life of Pi and White Teeth come to mind, neither of which I felt like reading after a few pages. Lately, however, I really enjoyed Evan S. Connell’s Lost in Uttar Pradesh. I felt quite lucky, actually, for having picked a book I liked totally randomly off a library shelf.

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