Friday, April 11, 2014

Who's reading now?

A work of fiction takes you on an imaginative ride as you read about the conflicts, the happenings and the sufferings of the protagonist and the characters created by the  author  of  a  novel. The incidents and the cities where they take place may be fictitious or based on some true events that have taken place in some places which actually exist on the map of the world. Not everyone who reads read fictions . Some readers only read non-fictions or materials that are related to their work and career advancement. There are those who read fictions to kill time and those who find the time to read fictions as they genuinely find pleasure and comfort in reading. I am addicted to reading and simply cannot have enough of reading and more reading. I enjoy good writings and I read both fictions and non-fictions. Reading can improve one’s general knowledge and thinking skills and in turn sharpening one’s mind.

Thinking is what we internalize within ourselves and we have to get to know our  minds before we mouth and say our thoughts aloud. We are told to think before we speak. We cannot express ourselves well if we cannot think clearly. Thoughts glide in and out of one’s mind, we may not be  fully aware of our own thoughts and the more we read, the more lucid our thoughts can become . While new encounters and changes can take you away from what you know about yourself already, reading can definitely help you to think better and in turn hopefully expand your perspectives and horizons.

According to Zoo Time a fiction written by Howard Jacobson, food and fashion have  now left fiction far behind  and one has to apologise for having read a book, let alone for having written one. Through his narration,  the protagonist, Guy Ableman, a middle-aged Jewish novelist rants about the demise of literary culture and serious readings.

Howard Jacobson  had  won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question in 2010 and I had enjoyed reading it. Perhaps I was very eager to get onto reading all my other books, I could not wait to finish reading Zoo Time, another novel written by Jacobson. Zoo Time contains the continuous lament of Guy Ableman about how the literary world is dying amidst all the tweeting, kindles and iPads. Guy is a novelist whose family owns a fashion boutique in Wilmslow and his parents and younger brother are not readers. It is a funny story about the changing publishing world and how Guy is in thrall to his beautiful wife who is an aspiring writer and is constantly distracted by the presence of  his  alluring  mother-in-law. At times, it feels like reading a non-fiction that is sending out unequivocal message that says reading is unfashionable in the face of the exciting developments in digital technology.

Reading no longer meant going to bed with a book you were ashamed to admit you couldn’t finish. Reading was now as little or as much, as frequent or as rare, wherever you did or didn’t want it , at the desk or on the move. We had a historic opportunity to rescue reading from the word. In a year he wanted to have a thousand story apps ready to go for the mobile-phone market. Bus –stop reading, he called it. Unbooks that could be started and finished while phone users were waiting for someone to call them back, or  for the traffic lights to change, or for the waiter to arrive with the bill. In short, to plug those small social hiatuses of life on the run.

As Guy fears that reading is finished, he sees Earnest Hemingway everywhere he goes.

More amazing to me was that wherever I went, I saw  Earnest Hemingway, either sitting down outside a pub or cafĂ©, or walking in the middle of the busiest main roads, oblivious to the abuse, writing, writing, writing. His shoes were down to nothing-mere cardboard pulp-and his buttocks were completely out of his trousers. How long before I looked the same? But I excited no companionable curiosity in him. Not once did he notice me. His eyes never left his reporter’s pad and his hand was never still.

What was he writing? A journal of the city? The story of the circumstances that had brought him to this ? Behind the beard was a strong face, inside the filthy clothes was a powerful frame ; he could have been anybody-an actor fallen from favour, a dramatist who wrote plays too searching for these cardboard-pulpy times, a novelist who used words of too many syllables for his readers. Or maybe he was just one of us, no more tragic or unsuccessful, simply constipated and needing to walk his constipation off.’

Was he invisible, I wondered, to everybody but me? Was he the ghost of serious writing-all that now remained of us? Was he Earnest Hemingway himself, come back from the dead, to stir the conscience of a public that didn’t even notice he was there?’

Guy narrates, “ I sell suits by Marc Jacobs in Wilmslow,’ I’d say today if I wanted to impress a woman,’and when I’m not doing that I’m practicing to be a short-order chef at Baslow Hall. This fiction shit is just a way of killing time.

Zoo Time is a fiction that suggests that literary culture has become unpopular.  I like to believe that with kindles and  tablets, although the literary world is  changing its landscape, all published writings  are definitely here to stay as they are part of our human legacy.

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