During this heat wave, while sitting by the air conditioner, or at the screen door in the early morning, I have been reading a lot. The works of fiction include, in no particular order, In the Middle of a Life, by Richard B. Wright, Labour Day by Joyce Maynard, Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe and As Husbands Go, by Susan Isaacs. These latter two are advance (review) copies. I also reread two favourites: The Truth about Loren Jones, by Alison Lurie, and A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews, because I wanted to refresh my memory about certain narrative decisions the authors made.
I remember a panellist at the Writer's Union AGM who said that "too many" books are being published nowadays.That's like saying there's too much fresh air.
A book which takes a writer a year or more to write can be devoured by an avid reader within days. It gives me pause, as a writer, to think that something which required so much effort from me can be zipped through so easily by those who read it, but that's just the way it is. Some novels are worth reading again and again because there is always something new to be derived from them, but, in addition to delving into books we have enjoyed before, we who are readers are always looking for a new reading experience and new insights.
Last week, interviewing a Canadian actor, I was impressed by his remarks about the value of theatre. Live drama gives people a chance to "relax and be", to "get out of their own way and become themselves," he told me. Reading does the same thing. In his landmark opus, Read for Your Life, psychologist Joseph Gold wrote that reading serves the same function in western cultures that meditation does in eastern cultures.
Reading may have fallen out of fashion among those seduced by electronic media, but many of us still read and in so doing, have our horizons broadened and our capacity for empathy enhanced. So how can there be "too many books"?