Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Pleasure and Pain?

Lately I've noticed a groundswell of experts extolling the educational benefits of "Reading for pleasure".

Or as I like to call it, "Reading".

It struck me that the phrase "Reading for pleasure" is something of a tautology, along the lines of "fiction novel". 1

What other reason, aside from pleasure, could a person have for reading? It shouldn't be painful, after all.

Ahhhh, you say, there is also reading for information. For education. For instruction.

True, but this too should not be painful. It should be a pleasure to glean information, to pique curiosity, to stir the grey matter with ideas from the mundane to Machiavellian.

This, for me, is pleasure.

Any book (whether fiction, memoir, reference or instructional) should be pleasurable by any definition of pleasure.

Gathering information is pleasure.
Getting inside someone else's head is pleasure.
Solving a crime is pleasure.
Falling in love is pleasure.
Turning into a warewolf is pleasure.
Laughing so hard I cry is pleasure.
Being provoked into anger is pleasure.
Following the instructions to assemble flat pack furniture is pleasure.

The only time I don't like reading is when it's not pleasurable. This has nothing to do with the genre and everything to do with the style.

If a character is poorly written, it's not pleasure.
If the installation instructions for the washing machine make no sense, it's not pleasure.
If the political memoirs lack depth and self-awareness, it's not pleasure.
If the author is lecturing me, it's not pleasure.

All reading should be for pleasure. By extension, all writers, no matter their genre, should write to please readers.

What kind of reading gives you pleasure?

1. The definition of "novel" is a work of fiction, ergo, if you're calling it a "fiction novel" you are hurting my brain. If it's not fiction, it's "non-fiction".

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