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. 🙂