Tuesday, 22 November 2016

I'm purposely not loyal to authors

No matter how much I love a book - contrary to what you might expect a "bookworm" to do - I rarely seek out further books that its author may have written. In fact, I actively avoid reading any books that they may have written (at least for a while). 

My innate pessimism is probably the key reason why I do this. I'm concerned that the author's other books won't be as good and may even negatively affect my feelings for the book (yes, I'm aware that this sounds a tad mad). One of my favourite - if not favourite - books I've read this year is Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry, Planet . I'm reluctant to read her follow-up novel A Closed and Common Orbit (not a sequel as such but it has some of the same characters) because I don't think I could cope (first-world problems, I know) if it was rubbish or just OK. It's Chambers' second book and they are renown for being "difficult". Even Zadie Smith - now seen as one of the UK's best authors - got a fair of bit flak for her second novel (The Autograph Man) after her astonishing debut (White Teeth).

I also suffer from "Fear of missing out" (Is FOMO still a thing in 2016 given so much stuff has happened that we'd rather have missed out on?). If I just stuck to the same authors, I might miss out on some wonderful books by authors unknown to me. It is a policy, to be fair, that works. Of the books I've read this year, most were by "new" authors. Admittedly some weren't great, but most were and several were "five-star" reads (see my previous post about how I rate books).

Then there's the law of diminishing returns. In the past, I've found that the more you read an author's work, the more you're able to spot their writing patterns. For a while, I went through a phase of trying to read a Dickens' novel every year. I was really enjoying doing this until, after reading about five of his books, I started to spot a pattern. I tried to read Nicholas Nickleby and it was all too obvious who the "baddie" was going to be - mind you, it's not like Dickens sets out to make it a surprise; it's just frustrating that the main character can't spot it. I can't remember if I read far enough to meet the love interest, but 10 to one she's was a demure, kind-hearted, creature whose greatest wish is to help her family - that was the character of the female love interest in most of the Dickens' novels I have read (well apart from Estella, but she had issues).

There are some authors whose work I do lap up. Kazuo Ishiguro is my all time favourite author. So much so that I'm prepared to forgive him the odd duff piece of work. In his short story collection, Nocturnes, which I read earlier this year, there are several stories that are - well - a bit ropey when it comes to plot. Ishiguro is obviously having a bit of a play about with story telling and it's not always successful. But this is the man who wrote The Remains of the Day and The Buried Giant (both beautiful in my view), so I am willing to overlook it. Hell, The Beatles came out with interesting songs now and again but that doesn't stop them from being one of the best bands that ever existed.

I am starting to re-think my whole policy of not reading books by the same author - seems somewhat hair-shirt wearing at times to deny myself the pleasure of a book just because I've already something by that author. For that reason, I actively going to read more of Jeanette Winterson's and Hilary Mantel's works because I really loved the stuff of theirs I've already read. I think the trick is not to read too many books by the same author in too short a timeframe (which I think is where I went wrong with Dickens).

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