I’ve read a few dreary books lately, of which some were on the best sellers list; one was even a Pulitzer Prize winner. Generally I read “Best Sellers” to keep in the loop and for the sake of diversity – it is not a habit I maintain because I’m just not a follower, but I cannot allow myself to ignore a title simply because three million copies were sold. That would be an injustice to the writer. Sadly, many popular titles have failed to satisfy me in a way their reviews or status promise and I often feel like I’ve let the writer down by not adhering to the status quo.
I like intelligent, engaging prose, a flexible, but strong plot and characters that don’t just imitate real life, but epitomise it. Some of the characters in the popular books I’ve read lately are the homogeneous, cut-and-paste variety – the obvious and self-righteous, but cunning hero with blue eyes and a nice hairdo, who you know will prevail; the dark-eyed, rapacious antagonist who always seems to pick meek victims etc. When I’m on a book quest, in which I often spend hours on the net or in book stores sifting through titles, I look for books that are a little off the beaten path, which are presented in a logical and interesting way, whose characters make me believe I know them. But many of these books are published by small firms in small quantities, to be found only by physically hunting them out, or they have been demoted to the clearance shelf because they failed to entertain the masses. Very often this is where I find my gems.
I cannot be alone in my love for quirky, unconventional and unpredictable literature. Which is why I sometimes wish I could be a publisher. I know there is a market for a good literary read. I encourage readers to read the classics, read what friends are raving about, but make some room on the shelf for the less well-known writers, for those books you usually pass on your way to the new releases, for the ones whose subjects you’d usually ignore. After all, readers create the markets.