This will probably be my last post for a while, barring brief NaNoWriMo updates. For similar reasons, I’m trying desperately to finish one of the books I’m reading before the end of the month, as I don’t think I’ll have time for that, either.
Thinking about reading made me realise something about my reading habits, and how they’ve changed: I now read for variety, not depth. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I seem to spend less time doing it, or at least, don’t get through the same volume. My towering TBR pile is steadily approaching a similar size to the shelves of what I’ve actually read (or, at least, kept hold of). Books go on it faster than they come off, but despite the years of reading hoarded there, I still want more. A common problem, I know, but I couldn’t help wondering why I do it.
Some of it is simple book addiction – a lot of the books I collect are older ones, and much of that is my love of old paperbacks with exciting covers (at affordable prices!). A lot of those are at the very bottom of the priority list for actually reading, and I’ll probably only read them if I win the lottery, retire to a desert island and some kind of apocalypse hits. Sounds kinda nice…
However, I think my craving for new books stems largely from a craving for new experiences – after all, this is one of the reasons I read Fantasy in the first place! It also explains why a lot of my unread shelf gets passed over quite often and new books get added. Quite a lot of my collecting is works of authors I have read and enjoyed, and the collector in me loves to have complete sets (more than one, in some cases). But I could count the number of series I have actually finished recently on one hand. Why? Because I always want something new. Yes, I also have a bit of completion-phobia, but there are loads of books on my shelf by authors I know and love, full of characters and places that I know and love…and I still hesitate to read them. Familiarity, in my case, seems to breed a sort of contempt.
This wasn’t always the case…or was it? Yes, I have read copious series by Michael Moorcock, but those are very short books, and though the formula is often the same, there is variety in the details. I also finished a few other things that were particularly in my wheelhouse at the time – rarely anything longer than a trilogy, however. I’m just not in it for the long haul, no matter what I’d like to think. Yes, I’m still interested to know what happens at the end of ASOIAF, or the the eventual fate of the Black Company, or what Malazan was all about…but, realistically, I’ve got so many books I’d actually rather read that I’ll probably eventually settle for the synopsis.
Sacrilege, I know!
It’s much the same for TV shows. I’m a fan of the episodic, not the season-long arc, and only tolerate the show-long arc if it isn’t ever-present. And anyway, I don’t have time for that much TV with all this reading and writing to do!
Strangely, I’m not a big fan of short fiction either. I enjoy a good short story, but I find them insubstantial, lacking in lasting impression. As I said, I can just about hang in there for a trilogy, for the most part, though I probably won’t read them consecutively. My reading history is littered with Book Ones that I’ve enjoyed, and my shelves stacked with Book Twos that I may never read. In the end, the standalone novel is just about perfect for me – long enough to build a world, characters and a story, but not long enough to let it grow stale, slow, or lose sight of its purpose. If only there were more!
I suppose that’s why I’m writing my current set of books the way I am. Yes, they are all set in the same world around the same momentous events – and in that respect, I suppose they are ‘Epic Fantasy’, but there is no Book One – or rather, they all are. I’m not sure yet if this will work for people, but it works for me. Just like my reading, I don’t think I could commit to write the same thing for book after book, no matter how much I love it.
PS: If anyone has a good word for a collection of books that aren’t in a linear sequence, I’d love to hear suggestions. Quintet could work, because a string quintet all collaborate and interact, but I fear people will still expect a 1-5 numbering? There’s Mosaic, but GGK used that (along with Tapestry), and while that’s not a bad thing, it might be considered pretentious? A Tale of Whatever (I thought Malazan was going to be like this, but it wasn’t)? Hmmm…