Monday, July 11, 2011

"Fluff Lit," Take 2

Nearly a year ago, when I was just starting my blog, I wrote an entry about what I refer to as "fluff literature."  I confessed that I sometimes take a break from classics and enjoy the light stuff.  Although this is still somewhat true, I recently had a change of heart.  One of my friends who was keeping up with my reading felt it was important for me to take a break and read something mindless.  And boy was it mindless!  I won't name the book because there's no need, but I found it to be so pointless that I didn't even enjoy it.  In fact, I actually had a negative feeling in my gut and a strong sense of wasted time.  However, I'm glad I had that experience because it really helped me appreciate just how much I love great literature.  I was reminded that I'm not on this quest as a boast or a chore but because great literature makes me feel good in a way that nothing else can.  Yes, it sometimes feels like work, and yes, it sometimes gets slow, but it satisfies a really hungry craving in me.  When I'm finished, I feel like I've spent my time well and I've gained something from the observation or reflection.  I often sense that I've connected with some literary genius who granted me permission to enter in his or her thoughts.  Even if I didn't particularly like the book, I can usually recognize some of its strengths and set it aside with a fairly positive response.  In my opinion, fluff literature cannot provide that and does not satisfy. 

My previous example of "fluff" was Eat, Pray, Love, and I'm actually reading a somewhat similar book right now, called Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach.  It follows a middle-aged woman who decides to leave everything behind and spend a year in various places throughout Europe.  It has a much different writing style, with more thoughtful insights and less witty remarks, but it is difficult to miss the similarities.  And once again, I am completely intrigued and interested because it appeals directly to my ever-present desire to travel.  This time, however, I am not going to insist that reading these kinds of books from time to time is a healthy and necessary aspect of being a bookworm.  One of the things I love about this blog is that it challenges me to write out my thoughts about each of the truly great books I read.  When I do this, I almost always walk away from my computer screen with an even-greater admiration for the book than I had the day before.  I just don't have that experience with the fluff I read.  In fact, sometimes the only thing it really does for me is assure me that I am a quick reader despite the fact it took me over a month to read The Iliad or three months to piece together Les Miserables.  (And I won't even confess to you how long I've been working on Moby Dick now...)

I guess my point is that I don't want anyone to think that one might "need a break" from Classic Literature.  Although it may be slow and heavy at times, it is way more fulfilling than the dozens of fluff books you could have been reading in that same time.  Mind you, I'm not swearing off light reading or scorning those who do feel the need for a break.  Instead, I just want to suggest that perhaps we need a break from the fluff literature that fills up our mind without great substance and we need to replace it with the thick, meaty words of Dostoevsky, Woolf, and Hardy.


Greg Zimmerman said...

I'm of the opinion that to be a well-rounded bibliophile, you have to read a fluff once in awhile whether or not you need a "break" from literary fiction, because as you say, it helps you understand how good literary and classic fiction / literature really is. It takes the bad to really appreciate the good, right? Good post!

Jillian said...

I can sooo relate to this post -- the hunger. It's not work or bragging -- goodness no. (I read children's classics when I need to step back from something heavy. I wouldn't call them fluff though. I adore the children's classics I've read. Right now I'm reading Charlotte's Web on the side.) :)

Anyway, awesome post.

IngridLola said...

Nice. I like my fluff literature too, every now and then ... but it's like comparing candy to a gourmet meal. Definitely helps me appreciate the good stuff.
I'm excited you've been posting more often! Keep it up, I love your posts!

Amy said...

I'm happy you all enjoyed this post. It was fun for me to write it, and I'm glad you can relate. It's also nice to know that people are still reading this blog! Ingrid, I really hope to keep it up this time - thanks for sticking with me!