A good friend of mine once asks me: Eny, why do you love reading books that end sadly? Even another best friend associates my reading preference with depressive ending, difficult plot novel. The point is I don’t read books that mostly have bitter endings, some even so heartbreaking, to impress people that I’m smart. The first and foremost reason on why I get addicted to read novels by Victorian authors is because of their language. Their language is so genius that I can feel myself in the books. From their descriptions, I can fancy how those fictitious characters will look like if they were exist. At last, I am into the world and mind of the authors. I have read some novels written by modern authors, even the ones from Nobel winner John Steinbeck and Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, but vintage authors’ language remains the best.
Other readers may say vintage novels are boring, too wordy. I don’t completely agree with that. Once I am absorbed into the first pages of the books, I don’t mind reading them until the last page. That’s why I don’t get bored at all in reading ‘The Mill on the Floss’ even if it is almost 600 pages long. As long as the language is beautiful, even poetic if necessary, coupled with good plot, I’ll stick to them till the end.
After the language, what concerns me next is the story itself. And speaking of theme, I’m a traditional reader. I prefer to read novels that bring up ordinary and general themes, like romance, human relationship, social stereotype, gender bias, than say, politic or religion. The reason is simple. It takes many efforts for any writers to make simple subjects to become worth reading. Since those topics have been widely written I must select certain readings that attract me most even if I have read another books that contain the same subjects. As such, language can be a tool to filter my selection.
On the other hand, taboo or controversial topics, like homosexuality and religious sect, are already debatable, making literary elements, such as language, may play insignificant roles.
As a realistic person, I avoid reading books about fantasy, like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’. The only novel about fantasy that I have read so far is ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and that is more because the novel contains so many satire about British kingdom at that time. You may call me too traditional or conventional, but yes, I think ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’ are way above my logic. I once did read ‘The Hobbit’ but given so many repetitive words in the book, it took me a quite long time to complete the reading. This unpleasant experience makes my reading appetite another Hobbit-related story by J. R. R. Tolkien vanishes.
I am not the kind of reader who seeks happy ending to reward my reading. It’s the plot, the language and the characterization that more matter. Thus, it would be ridiculous if Thomas Hardy puts a happy ending toward the dark, skeptical novel ‘Jude the Obscure.’ What draw s more attention is the congruity between the plot and the finale. If the plot leads to suicidal actions, then be it. Isn’t life not all about happiness? After all, doesn’t the writer have full authority on what he/she creates?
Will I turn out to be a skeptical, mournful person given the sad book I have read so far? Nope. I must not limit our reading selection if I want to be a prosperous reader. I think I must follow what my heart says and if it commands me to read sad or even controversial books then I’ll go for that. But, prior to this, I will reprimand myself that the purpose of reading is to add knowledge, filter what is good and bad for myself then restore those values in my mind. Only then, I will feel rich as my mind will be balanced. Reading classics that contain gloomy finale has instead enhanced my understanding on people’ way of life. I learn their logics, I compare their condition with current situations and I comprehend why I must do or not execute the same thing.
So those are my general reading preference. It’s not that bleak, difficult or complicated as others may see. I am not really sure that my principles indicate my reading level. The point is I put my feeling as the best clue and almost likely it is never wrong.