Books are the most divine creation. I’m happiest when I have my next 3-4 books plotted out. Quite often, The Dialectic and I discuss the joy of reading, and every so often, the Z word creeps up. In the past, I’ve been vocal about both not being a fan of her writing, and my dismay that she and her ilk have overrun the African-American Fiction section. I maintain that not every work crafted by a black mind must be the great something or other, yet I also believe that until there is balance, I reserve the right to be a little more critical.
Occasionally, we discuss how often, these writers can often be part of the evolutionary process in developing bibliophiles. I wasn’t born reading Baldwin, Shakespeare and Fitzgerald. (I purchased my first Shakespeare when I was NINE, thank you very much…I read it when I was ten.) I have read Zane, Eric Jerome Dickey and Terry McMillan. At one point, I would sample a little of this, and a little of that, in terms of reading. Some heavy. Some featherweight.
Then one day, I read a line from the most unlikely source: Terry McMillan. In A Day Late and A Dollar Short, main character and matriarch, Viola Price, lay in an emergency room bed dying of an asthma attack. One of her last thoughts was how she loved her family so much, she would give them her last breath, and if she had another, she’d give them that one too. I remembered how that made me feel. In that moment, I wanted everything I read to convey that type of emotion. Not that exact emotion, but to make me see a real, raw, uncontrived emotion on a page, and believe it. When I read a book, I search for that, and if you don’t give me that, I don’t fuck with you.
What makes for a “good book” is extremely subjective. When a person is pours their heart and soul on a page, you feel it. It can happen in horror, romance, and yes, even erotica. Baldwin can describe the erotic (and homoerotic) in ways that bend the soul and turn it inside out; as does Anne Rice (penned pseudonymously as A. N. Roquelare and Anne Rampling).
The prevailing thought now is, “don’t knock the hustle.” To the extent that a person had an ideal, and saw it to fruition, I can’t get mad at that. There is value in the fact that those writers can be springboards into much deeper works. The thing is, do we languish there? I even call myself to task on this, not so much langushing in so-so books (I almost typed “literature,” but my finger turned, looked at me, and gave me the hard side eye), but even reading the same “good” writers. How does one locate the new crop of great writers, if you are stuck in the old faithfuls?
Growth and expansion is important. I challenge any and all interested readers to find a new author or genre. We can say it’s in honor of Daylight Savings Time. Or is it Standard Time? I can’t remember. Or you can just say you’re arbitrarily trying something new. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
If you are so inclined, let me know of your results. Can’t wait to hear from you guys.
Let me also say that I love you guys for reading through my blatherings, neuroses, and occasional break downs. Things aren’t always sunshine and unicorn farts, and I’m glad you guys hang around for the not so great stuff too. Let’s get it for 2010.