03 Mar

Don’t just read (or watch) for the sake of it

I watched a film on Saturday: Paris, Texas.

It’s supposed to be one of those real ‘how can you not have seen it??’ films; incredible cinematography, highly respected director, won a Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival (1984), a widely praised film score, a delicately told story about family and human emotion.

I felt like;
a) I had to watch it, so I could tell others I have; ‘have you seen Paris, Texas?”
b) I had to enjoy it or it was too highbrow for me, or I’m not intellectual enough to understand the complex storyline and its subtle nuances.

Well, you know what? I didn’t like it. It was ponderous, stilted, unnecessarily long, implausible (in parts), awkward, pretentious… and bloody boring!
I completely ‘got it’. I know that it was supposed be slow, beautiful, an introspective journey, full of raw emotion etc … but I still didn’t like it.

Likewise, I’ve never really got to grips with Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels (Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Autumn Patriarch). I found the translation from Colombian Spanish to English, too flowery. I found that I’d read three pages and have only read about a single petal on a particular flower.
I love descriptive writing, but only up to a point.

I started and gave up on all three of the Marquez novels mentioned. I think I was supposed to feel unintelligent for having done so, but I didn’t enjoy them: I was just reading them to say that I’d read his novels.
I don’t have time to read a 400-page novel (x3) that I don’t enjoy, just so I can take part in some intellectual chest puffing. That, to me, is a waste of time.

The only book that I genuinely regret giving up on, is Master and Margarita (Mikhail Borgakov). I’d like to have another crack at that.

The point is, the time we get to fill our heads with new ideas, or just have a relaxing read / watch a film, is precious. There isn’t the time to read/watch stuff we don’t like, just for the sake of pretending to others that we’re intellectual, or arty, or superior in some way.
Moreover, I dislike the notion that I simply ‘have to’ like something because lots of other people have heaped praise on it. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it.

In fact, some of my favourite books are those by children’s authors; Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman. They’re simple stories, well told, and full of strange and fantastical creatures and characters.
Some of my favourite films are from the none-too-intellectual gangster genre; Donnie Brasco, Casino, Carlito’s Way, Scarface, Heat.

Currently, I’m rereading The Grapes of Wrath (okay, that could be considered a little pretentious), because I think it’s a brilliant story, and Snakes in Suits – about psychopaths in the corporate world.

The point is, read and watch what you want to read and watch. Our leisure time is precious, and it’s best to at least fill your head with stuff you enjoy, rather than trudging through something you can’t stand, just to impress others.
It took me a long time to realise and accept this, but I’m glad I came to that realisation.

Anyway, I’m off. I have a couple of Beanos waiting for me at home.

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