Thursday, January 13, 2011

Instant Recognition, the books you know by reputation ONLY

I’m postponing the second part of my review for Kaaron Warren’s Walking the Tree for some reflection on me as a reader and possibly hear your opinions.

Instant Recognition: The books you know by reputation ONLY

Today’s topic arose, when I posted an artwork inspired by One Flew over a Cuckoo’s Nest and found myself talking about recognizing the title [much like a trademark], but admitting my ignorance about the contents of the actual book:

Personally, I’ve not read the novel nor do I have any idea what’s it about [it was in the commentary under the image that I learned it involved an antagonist nurse]. This novel along with many others to be frank bring instant recognition, when I hear their titles, because I’ve grown up hearing their titles thrown into conversations – I think One Flew over a Cuckoo’s Nest is even the name of a late talk show in Bulgaria, but that was renamed, so I maybe fabricating memories. But as it happens, I know nothing about this book.

I think I’ll call this phenomenon a ‘reader’s blind spot’, avoiding the term idiot being used in direct connotation with my name. Truth is that I do know things about Cuckoo’s Nest like for instance how it has been filmed into a successful movie and is one of those novels that simply must be read. Or so say people.

I’ve extensive blind spots pretty in pretty much any genre. For instance, I may play along and gag around how GRRM is competing with The Bold & The Beautiful in the category ‘When will it end?’. I can nod my head knowingly at how Jordan used to describe clothes and fabric. I can cheer Jim Butcher for being a force in a largely female dominated genre. How the Left Hand of God was a disaster. But poke me about what goes on inside those and I will shake my head.

I think what contributed to building such a false sense of familiarity with hundreds of books I have yet to read is the Internet: online reviews and Twitter. I poke my head in and it’s a storm of name slinging. Most of the time things don’t register, but sometimes titles and authors stick without me knowing anything else other than second-hand information, hype [with brand new releases] or nostalgia [I grew up on GRRM; Pratchett introduced me to fantasy, etc.].

I don’t know whether to consider this a ‘serious’ issue that I have to address or warn of, but it is something interesting to ruminate upon. I know my shortcomings [not reading fast enough], so I won’t come off as an idiot in actual conversation [evasive small talk 101: Say ‘indeed’ to stop a person from speaking].

HOWEVER, I’m curious. Has this happened to you? Which are the books you know by reputation only? Newer ones? Older ones?


Ria said...

I think it would be easier for me to list the books I know from experience. My mental library has some serious holes in it. Most of the Narnia books. A lot of classic sci-fi and dystopian novels. A good number of big-name fantasy series, such as the Malazan Book of the Fallen stuff. I need to get around to reading a lot of books so that I can feel not quite so ignorant!

Harry Markov said...

Oh yeah, I think there are a lot of expectations about what you have had to read in order to be a certified book geek [although that may very well be paranoia on my part].

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