Saturday, March 17, 2007

On Subject Matter

My reading choices are often (more often than I'd like to admit) driven by a book's subject matter. I've not read or put aside many probably high-quality books simply because I'm not interested in reading about the subject. War, slavery, and other other such things are not things I care to read about for the length of a novel. I tend to prefer a more personal, psychological fiction set in more common circumstances. But I've recently learned a lesson.

I have just finished reading Toni Morrison's Beloved. This book has been on my to-be-read list for ages but has continually been put aside. I should note that I was debating reading Catch-22 at the same time, but I put it aside for this book. I suppose I shouldn't have been shocked that Beloved was such an amazing book. A Nobel and a Pulitzer should stand for something. I just didn't expect to be so compelled to read, to be so interested in the story, the human drama, that the subject matter, or the setting really, was only secondary.

I am not one to be turned off by unpleasant material (I tend to enjoy a little misery), but yet I shied away from particular books because I thought I wouldn't enjoy reading about the subject. I've learned now that if a book is good, the ancillary information, be it setting or the particular time period or whatever, is second to the actual story being told. A good book is a good book, no matter the subject matter.

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