The Comfort Zone

November 2, 2014

I’ve been poorly and therefore resting over the last few days, and resting means reading. When I’m ill, I usually go back to old favourites, which means SF, detective fiction and the like. And that got me thinking: I’m not that adventurous in what I choose to read. I don’t stray beyond the genres I’m familiar with, and comfortable with. When I go to a bookshop, I head for the same sections. The newest thing I took on board was probably travel writing, about a decade ago.

So what? I could argue, I know what I like and I stick to it. But I’m not satisfied with that as a response especially when, in a house surrounded by thousands of books, I sometimes find myself feeling bored and unable to choose what to read next. And it’s not because I’ve read them all: there are sizeable piles of waiting-to-be-reads sitting about the place.

When I’ve tried being adventurous, I’ve sometimes been disappointed. Don DeLillo bored me. Saul Bellow was OK but I can do without him. When I was a teacher, sometimes students would introduce me to something new: I was persuaded to buy and read ee cummings’ poems, and was very grateful for the arm-twist. Apart from that, scanning my reading log tells me I’ve discovered and enjoyed Neal Stephenson (but he is SF-ish anyway) and Miklos Banffy (but he’s an Eastern European writer anyway).

I’m conscious, as I get older, that time is limited. Not that I’m about to fall off my perch imminently (at least I hope not) but I have moved on from thinking ‘yes, it would be nice to re-read that one day’ to ‘I’m probably not going to have the time or inclination to revisit that one, so out it goes’. So, do I have a jaded palate? Is this inevitable at my stage in life? Is there anything left for me to try, or to discover? Or do I just need to get out more?

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