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.