How reading discernment can lead to reading disappointment

My reading tastes have changed.  And I’m not sure that I’m very happy about it.  There was a time – a long time ago – when anything with pages,  words and a cover would hold me.  From Machiavelli to Seuss.  I didn’t care what it was.  Literary epics, trashy romance, memoirs.  I could get even lost in the phone book, when my search for the local plumber would be  waylaid by a sudden fascination with other people’s names.

But as I continued to read, a discernment crept in.  At first I welcomed my higher standards, thinking they were a sign of intelligence.  Gone were the days that I would persevere to the final page if the narrative didn’t hold me.  Cliched writing, boring characters, weak plot lines.  And I’d put the book down.

Now, I search for quality, and not just quality in the writing but quality in the telling of the story.  Am I happier, with my more critical reading eyes.  Nope, I don’t think I am.  There are less book s to read.

It’s the same with wine, conversation, coffee.  Judgment can get out of hand.  A while back, I thought a good cup of coffee was one that had lots of froth and chocolate on top.

As I got older, I realised that the taste of the coffee was more important than the height of the milk froth.  Where there was previously only one criteria to meet, I now had a long list including; correct temperature of milk, speed of extraction (too slow=  bitter taste, too fast=sour taste), the grind of coffee and on and on.  I feared that I was not a coffee connoisseur, but a coffee wanker.

Same with books.  Actually, the same for pretty much everything.  This need for criticism (call it discernment or good taste if you prefer), in all things has a dark side – the lessening of enjoyment.  Oh, I’ll admit that the joy experienced when finding something wonderful is heightened.  Yet, I still long for the days when my standards were lower, and I was more easily pleased.

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Filed under books, Reading, Writing

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