No, the reading is my little rebellion. I've worked for the past year on my master's thesis, and I've read extensively for that purpose. But my sources were all scholarly non-fiction, and a number of them were in middle French. While I loved my topic - rogues from the nobility re-inventing themselves - and all the research that went with it, my focus on historical matters left little time for imagined plots and characters. (Actually, reading and writing history involves a lot of speculation, although many within the field would argue that I'm wrong on this point. To me, that's part of the job of the historian, and if you're reading history that doesn't involve the author making arguments based on taking evidence and filling in the gaps, then you're reading the duller version of what should have been written. Perhaps it's the educated guessing that attracts me to history in the first place.) My shelf of fiction is overflowing with tales of adventure, mystery, love, friendship, disaster, and probably more. So maybe you can imagine the feelings of joy I've experienced now that I have at least a couple of hours each day to read.
I suppose, in the matter of full disclosure, that I should make it clear: I am not a literary snob. I could probably fake it if I felt like it mattered, but I love reading, regardless of genre. Occasionally, I finish poorly written books because the story is worthwhile, and the same could be said of well-written attempts as well - even if the story is so-so, an author can suck me in with beautifully written words. I am unconcerned if a book is a best-seller, and often, I find myself owning books because I liked the title and the cover and the price. That old saying about judging a book by its cover? I try to follow that when dealing with people, but with books, I'm a sucker for a pretty face, so to speak.
|Nothing says happy endings and rainbows like a beautiful carousel horse. Right? ;)|
So why am I telling you this? Why in the world would you care?
I mention it for a couple of reasons. First, I don't think historians read enough fiction, if what I see at the local university is anything to go on. Seems that make-believe just isn't a worthy endeavor for them. This breaks my heart, because fiction really gets to the themes of what it means to be human, and without such reflection, history can be oh, so dull and meaningless. Truth is, when I chose to go back to school, I almost didn't choose the history MA for this reason.
I almost applied to the creative writing program instead.
It was a tough choice for me, but ultimately, I had to go with my background. I had only one English class as an undergraduate, and six hours of graduate credit in writing. I just didn't think it was enough to get me in. Add to that the way the local program is set up - they have these traveling workshops that require a couple of weeks in Mexico or Canada or who knows where twice per year - and I didn't think I could swing the cash. Being in school means a drain on finances in more ways than one, since it costs money and requires time that would be spent in the workforce.
But back to my point: historians who write great history need to read beyond their little corner of the world. Academia can be quite insular, and if you are a specialist within a very small field, it gets very easy to shut out so much of the world. I don't want to be that kind of historian. I like knowing that the people who came before me lived, and that their stories are worth retelling.
|I wonder about this girl's story - spoiled brat, getting everything her way, or shy child, never knowing if she fits in?|
Now, as for my title, I hope you'll excuse me for employing a very old marketing trick. This post really doesn't have anything to do with pop songs and why they aren't about reading. In the interest of selling my topic (myself and my views on reading), I tried to imply that I might indulge in a bit of celebrity bashing in order to draw you in.
*No celebrity reputations were harmed in the writing of this blog.
What a pity. :)