On Tuesday night, when I should have been doing something productive or relaxing, I created a graph showing how many novels (and other narratives) I had read by country since 1996. The results were predictably homogenous, but even more weighted toward the USA than I imagined.
There you have it – 220 from the USA, 101 from Britain, 68 from Australia, 14 from Canada for the top four places. I don’t have records from 98-00; maybe I was much more cosmpolitan in those years. The figures are also skewed toward the USA because in 96 and 97 when I was a science fiction addict, just about everything I read came from there.
I was thinking of resolving to read more Australian, European, Asian and African texts to broaden my horizons. And maybe I will. But I’m not going to worry too much. There’s too many things in this world to feel guilty about.
But I am curious about why I’m so drawn to American fiction. I have an aversion to consumerism, patriotism, fundamentalism and unchecked capitalism, all those things America is famous for. But I am also fascinated by America, and even to prod and gawk at those things I hate. Many of my favourite authors are American – Auster, DeLillo, Franzen, Moody, McCullers, Updike. I’d like to visit the USA some day; I’ll just have a hard time convincing my wife. (I think I would like to travel by train across its heartland; keep meaning to read Don Watson’s account of this.)
I think its easier to read in tune with our own culture, rather than cross cultural boundaries; and interestingly I don’t feel like I have to cross much of a boundary to read American fiction – or British fiction, I suppose, but I’ve found less authors there whom I love.
Interestingly just about every European novel I have read has been brilliant. This is merely a reflection of how selective I’ve been, but there’s an untapped continent there. In fact, there’s at least four of them.
What are your reading habits like? Regale and shame me with the stories of how you spend your leisure time reading Afghani novels in the original or 13th century Chinese epics. Go on, show me up. 🙂
english st said:
I’ll shame myself by admitting to how little I read. I borrow and buy an enormous quantity of books, but the number I actually get through is really quite small. And then, it is mostly non-fiction. I’ve been working through the previously unpublished poetry of Charles Wesley and had a crack at Dylan Thomas.
I’ve probably attempted to read mainly British (eg. Nick Hornby) and Australian (eg. Elliot Perlman) books, books about the everyday life. I’ve never been a sci-fi fan. Selling books to schools I was troubled by how little real life stuff there is out there for kids, it is all vampires and wizards and stuff. I’d always try to sell them some Tim Winton (Bugalugs) or Colin Thiele or something as well. No Twilight. Talk about a saga…
I’m currently reading a trans-atlantic effort, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’. It is as entertaining as I hoped it to be, and my wife, an avid Austen fan, is also enjoying it. The American author who as adapted it has done very well to blend the horrid battle scenes in with Austen’s gentleness. I guess there isn’t much everyday life about it though.
I’ve been eyeing off Nick Cave’s ‘And the Ass Saw the Angel’ since it went onto Penguin Classics.
I’ve been reading a few American theologians, but through my work and study I’ve come across a lot of Pacific Islands theologians too. There is some interesting stuff, I would adopt any of it as mine, but food for thought (Jione Havea for one).
I’m about to embark on my own literary project. The dirty underbelly of working in a library. Any takers for co-authorship?? Inspired by my Library Manager who was wondering if I was documenting all of the strange phenomena taking place in our humble establishment of late…
I’ve prattled long enough!