I’ve been reading a bit more fiction lately (Asimov’s Foundation and A Confederacy of Dunces are the most recent). I am finding it very engaging, after a period of reading quite a lot of quite earnest non-fiction.
Two things I have have particularly enjoyed. Firstly, the lightness and humour woven through the stories I have been reading, even while dealing with quite complicated or difficult things. This contrasts with the often endless seriousness of non-fiction. An (obvious) reminder that jokes are good.
Secondly, all too often non-fiction books consist of a compelling first 60 pages, followed by 200 or so pages of reiteration and exemplification. By contrast, (good) fiction builds throughout, so the final pages turn themselves. I’m not sure if the lesson there is that non-fiction should be more confidently succinct, or that writers should hold a little more back for the end, if they can.
Either way, if you haven’t done so recently, I recommend that you pick up a novel. And if you have any fiction recommendations, I would love to hear them.
PG Wodehouse has always been literary comfort food to me. I read the books when I was younger, and I would say that they are some of the few that I have re-read, often in times when I have felt I needed something warm and sustaining. When recovering from illness or jet-lag or otherwise. The language is crisp and clean, almost musical, always with a wry smile. The stories themselves are predictable, yet still they catch you off guard. It is timeless, yet so very of its time.
But I am getting off topic. To return to the subject, the thing that often strikes me when I have binged on Jeeves and Wooster is how PG’s turn of phrase and sentence structure begins to crop up in my own thoughts. How I find myself mimicking his abbreviations and metaphor (artlessly I might add). Some mixture of him infecting my mind, and me commandeering his voice. It doesn’t last forever of course, but for a while I am a little more Wodehouse.
You are what you read.
I have spent some time on Twitter lately, what with all this news that keeps happening. I found myself wondering how that very different type of reading was permeating my way of thinking. Obviously Twitter as a whole doesn’t have the consistent author’s voice to clearly spot influencing one’s internal narrative. But there is maybe something of the context switching, the pithiness and irreverence, the anxious tenor, that I perhaps can increasingly identify.
Where I take pleasure in noticing a spot of Wooster, I enjoy these Twitter tics rather less, which is probably a sign.
I can only assume that other people observe a similar influence on their thinking, depending on what content they have been consuming lately*. Whose voice do you enjoy borrowing, and whose do you like less?
*Of course it might just be me.