The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

It’s strange how reading a book I don’t like sometimes makes me want to read more from the same author.[1] Am I giving them a second chance, or double checking? Or is it because actually liking a book has nothing to do with it?

It confuses a lot of people–it confuses pretty much everyone–that I don’t actually review the books I read. I assure them that it’s far more interesting what I think about a book before I read it. And it is, because I don’t like most of what I read. It’s become something of a running joke.

Of course, when I tell people this, they invariably wonder why I read those book then, or flat out tell me I’m clearly reading the wrong books. They take my saying I didn’t like a particular book to mean I feel I’ve wasted my time reading it. What they don’t understand (and what I’m myself only now realising) is that maybe liking a book has nothing to do with why I read?

There’s a cartoon from The Oatmeal which I love, about not being a happy person (you have to check it out, here: I’m not happy in the same way I don’t like (most of) what I read. But I’m, er, happy I’ve read them. Why? Because of why I read.

I read because I’m curious about an author and want to experience their writing, storytelling, imagination. I read books that contain interesting ideas though the writing is so bad it hurts. I read because I’m addicted to words. I read difficult books because I like the challenge. I read books that are poetic even when I have no idea what is happening. I read to learn. I read to know what others are talking about, and so I know what I’m talking about when I talk about what they’re talking about. I read because I’m a completist; I read to have read. Often I read books that I came across somewhere and the idea stuck in my subconscious. And sometimes, I read a book just because I like its title or cover.

-Reading the Why

[1] I’m not expecting to like The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard. I read Crash a year or so ago expecting to like it, people told me I would like him and I liked the idea behind the book, what Ballard was trying to say, what he did say; still I couldn’t like the book. It was something in the rhythm of his writing, in his diction, in his voice, that sat uncomfortably with me. It was strange because, on paper (so to speak), I should have liked him, but I didn’t like him at all.


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