I've been reading a lot lately. Actually, I've been reading a lot for the past year. This comes after a multi-year post-undergrad hiatus of not wanting to read anything at all. Now the pendulum has swung back and I can't go through books fast enough. A lot of what I've been reading are kids- and young-adult books -- everything from the Phantom Tollbooth to the His Dark Materials trilogy. I've been hitting a lot of classics, too, like Peter Pan and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; and I've read a bunch of today's fad books, like Eragon and The Wind on Fire trilogy.
All of this reading is ostensibly research for my own young adult book. But in reality I've been doing it because it's just plain fun. Even the little kid books, like The Scarecrow and His Servant, are fun (and fast) reads. And I've discovered a lot of new treasures, like Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne-Jones (which was made into an animated movie that is very different from the book, but also very good). Better still, I've rediscovered some of my childhood by digging up books I read as a kid yet which aren't published anymore. In particular, the Norby Chronicles, by Janet and Isaac Asimov, which are about a kid and his overly emotional robot. Some of these books hold up well to adult readers. Others, well, if not for the nostalgia factor, I couldn't recommend them.
The great thing about reading kids books is that they have kept me away from the "serious fiction" on the new-relases tables. Every time I walk into Borders or B&N, I of course start my browsing at the new-releases tables because they stand guard over the doors, and getting by them is like passing the Sphinx's riddle: will I or won't I be duped into picking up the loudest, most demanding, most earnest title on the table? If I fall for it, I leave the store looking like a learned New-York-Times-style intellectual, and the Sphinx kills my soul. But if I leave those books alone, I get to go see the Oracle, waiting for me in the kids section. Or the sci-fi section. Or the murder-mystery section. Or even the travel section, the history section, the women's studies section, the psychiatry section -- anywhere but the motherfucking fiction and literature section. That section is a fucking travesty.
Everyone and their fucking cousin is trying to write the next Big Important Book. And the result is one sour, downtrodden tail after another. It's depressing as hell. Not to mention the parade of egos. Every single one of those books screams, "Look at me and how artsy smartsy I am!" I do not need the bullshit enlightenment these people are trying to pass-off with their fiction. And I don't want to see life reaffirmed via triumph over tragedy. I just want to have a good time. Is that so wrong?