Put off

The Hardened Librarian (she’s really Den luttrade bibliotekarien) was blogging about what put her off reading when she was at school. It’s a relief to hear that others – even librarians – feel like that. I know I was certainly put off some books, and authors, by well-meaning teachers.

To some extent ‘all’ Swedish literature got to me. But as with so many things when you are growing up, you don’t know that what you’re experiencing isn’t normal. I must have assumed that in becoming an almost adult I simply had to read adult and ‘proper’ literature, and by definition it would be, if not boring, then not as riveting as it ought to.

Why should it be natural to move from exciting books at twelve, to adult boredom at 14? We’ve already established that in my day we had none of the YA. Hence the sudden move to adult classics. I wonder if (Swedish) schools today serve up more teen oriented reading material? Or do teachers pick adult books because they have forgotten already? Or because it’s the only ‘right’ thing to do?

John Steinbeck, Pärlan

I believe THL and I must be about the same age. We both read, and liked, Nevil Shute and John Steinbeck. Note that these two authors lack in Swedish-ness. I have never read many adult Swedish books. But I have friends who did, and do. I even have friends in the UK, leading English-speaking lives, but who wouldn’t dream of reading in English. Me, I always felt I was destined to come here, and to read books in my other language.

A few years ago when I interviewed Tim Bowler, he mentioned his favourite Swedish writers, and I didn’t dare admit that I didn’t agree with him. (Sorry!) Maybe I should get Tim and THL in the same room and they could discuss Pär Lagerkvist. Could be interesting.

The stupid thing is that I was so taken by the idea that I had grown up that I continued reading all this adult, but oh-so-boring stuff. I wonder why? Just think what fun I could have had in better company.

What puts English speaking teenagers off? At least many of the classics – albeit long – are reasonably interesting and readable. Though I’m grateful I saved Austen & Co until my twenties. I suspect I was more receptive to lengthy romances by then.

In the UK it seems to be customary to know which football team people, including your teachers, support. I think I can do a literary sort of line through my various teachers, showing the favourite author for each of them. When Heinrich Böll was awarded the Nobel, I read his most recent book. My German teacher adored Böll. I read several of his books. I am fairly sure I didn’t like any of them. Why did I do it?

I suppose it’s a good idea to try new writers, and not be too prejudiced. But to continue the punishment once you’ve established you don’t like someone’s writing, strikes me as madness.

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7 responses to “Put off

  1. Have been having a very cheerful (and possibly self-indulgent conversation) on my facebook page with friends who seem to have managed to move seamlessly from childhood’s What Katy Did & Heidi to Sergeanne Golon’s raunchy Angelique series as teenagers. Maybe low tastes are a help!

  2. Low tastes definitely help. I remember that ‘all’ my friends read Angelique. I never did, but I really don’t know why. I suppose I had my own ‘rubbish’ to help offset the quality that was getting me down. The funny thing is, I didn’t know who wrote Angelique. We only ever talked about the ‘Angelique books’ and an author was never mentioned. Like with Barbara Cartland, but the other way round. (Can anyone name a Cartland book title?)

  3. Are you Swedish? I haven’t read any Swedish stuff other than the Millenium trilogy. But I’ve heard of a lot of other crime stuff that’s meant to be really good…

  4. Yes, Udita.
    There’s plenty of good stuff, especially among the lighter genres. It’s when Swedes get a bit introverted and think a lot and then write a book…

  5. Yes Bookwitch, I think we must be about the same age :-)
    I used to read more swedish authors when I was a teenager but the school experience sort of put me off them. It didn’t exactly happend over night, more gradually but for the last 20 or 30 years I may have read an handful, at the most, a year. That is a slight problem since I work as a librarian and people expect that I’ve read all popular swedish authors (well they expect that I’ve read most of the books in the library). It’s the same with Nobel prize winners, I do tend to avoid them.

  6. Pingback: Off-putting | Secret Powers of a School Librarian

  7. Pingback: Ursula Le Guin vs John Steinbeck | Secret Powers of a School Librarian

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