Friday, March 19, 2010

Non-Fiction and Fun (Or the lack there of…)

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov, A Brief History of TIme by Stephen Hawking Ph.D., Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf and Structural Power and the Construction of Markets: The Case of Rhythm and Blues by Timothy J. Dowd Ph.D., an article published in Comparative Social Research, Volume 21: of all of these, I think I enjoyed the latter the most.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction so perhaps I don't know what to look for to judge it's merits and faults, but in terms of what was the most fun, or what would I recommend to someone else, I have to go with Gilsdorf. If you make it through the free online preview without laughing, then I doubt our reading interest will ever coincide. I wish I'd taken notes while reading the Hawking, my retention would then have been much higher. I should have known that Nabokov would be the most cerebral and intellectual of the bunch with his command and elegant mastery of the English language. As for beautiful writing, Nabokov again wins in terms of prose and sheer creativity in presentation of a memoir. (I still think the, 'best' bit of writing within Speak, Memory was Nabokov's 'review' of the work at the end. It is much like the forward to Lolita except greatly expanded.)

I think non-fiction has some form of reader engagement that is, at the present, foreign to me. I can't say I ever, 'got into' any of these books except for the Dowd article--which covers a subject that I knew going into would have great immediate interest to me. Perhaps I'm going about things incorrectly and I need to follow some sort of primer as to how best enjoy non-fiction, and as always, I'm open to suggestions, but at the moment, I'm at a loss to see how book stores stay in business carrying as little fiction as they do. How does non-fiction sell as much as it does?

What am I missing? Why is the fiction market so tiny and yet that is what holds all my reading interest outside of academic writing concerning sociology? I once heard that the average person reads seventy pages in a book and then puts it down forever. If that statistic took into account non-fiction I kinda understand. I'd love to know further details of that study. To all the non-fiction lovers out there, I'm not hating, but have you heard of Arturo Perez-Reverte, John Connolly or a host of other I-have-read-everything-by-this-person-ever writers?

I've never been in with the 'in crowd' and I don't take the side of the minority 'just because,' but I'm missing (or have missed) the point when it comes to most non-fiction.

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