I like to read happy books. This was not always true. I used to love novels about quirky off-beat characters. I devoured books by Audrey Niffenegger, Saul Bellow, Amy Chan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and John Irving, to name a few. They were and still are beautiful, strange and evocative. These books offer the same magic today that they did ten years ago, but I am no longer the same reader that I once was.
I used to be a classy, intellectual, mind expanding, and thought provokable reader.
One year I had a wonderful experience reading my way through Charles Dickens while living in Japan. I would like to say I was motivated by literary depth, and historical inquisitiveness. In fact, since english language books were so difficult to obtain while I was living in Matsumoto, Japan in 1986, I bought the heftiest, densest pieces of literature available from the english book store in Tokyo. Charles Dickens definitely filled my needs. His engaging characters suffered and triumphed through thousands of time consuming literary pages. My reading needs have clearly changed.
Now, instead of looking for quirky characters and metaphorical life situations in my reading, I am looking for friends, safety and happy endings. Now when I start a book I can only stay with it if I like the characters and the way they navigate their stories. If they make bad choices I close the book. If they fail to engage my sympathy I close the book. If they turn into people that I no longer like, I always close the book.
I have become such an impatient reader that I wonder what that says about me as a person. My perspective about who is worth spending time with in fiction has changed. I feel enough of the burden of life experiences I must carry in real time. In the world of books, I am no longer looking for the challenge of emotionally needy characters who disappoint me. I no longer want to support the fictional person making the obviously wrong choice. I do that enough in real life. In real life, you can’t always close the book. In real life you often have no choice but to follow the plot to the inevitable end. In fiction, You can close the book. And I often do.