Monday, January 10, 2011

Bookish Knowledge

Not too long ago, I decided to finally pick up Kafka. After enduring enough jibes and accusations ranging from elitist to you’re-planning-your-own-funeral, I finally finished a couple of novels of his. Needless to say, the latter of the said accusations seemed a much quicker reality in the beginning.

The good part about how I read Kafka was, I ended up reading in spurts. A good number of days went in between me reading every 100 odd pages, which meant enough time to ruminate over what I’d read. What ensued was that every time I was neck deep in reading one of his novels or short stories, I’d realize a new facet of the man’s work, and a new reason to like it. Every few days, I could tell people how much I love Kafka’s stuff for a whole different reason. The only common factor was that I loved Kafka’s stuff.

And finally, I realized that this is how truly good books function. If you look at it from a very macro level, this is how it generally is. Books that have been loved and adored by fans whose number goes into six or seven digits always have the external appearance of being liked only for one particular reason. . But if you think about it even a little bit and consider the enormity of the cross-section of people reading these books, this cannot possibly be true. In reality, though, they appeal to different senses and different areas of the brain of people reading it. The reason why they all seem to be appreciated for only one reason, are critics.

Critics are in no way intellectuals functioning on a higher plane, figuring out the true intention of the author behind writing the book. Hell, only the author can tell you the true intention. The only difference between book critics and us normal people is that they can express their views, which somehow leads us all to believe that they’ve understood the true essence of the book better than the common man. Not only is this very untrue, it also gives a very convenient opinion that people can flock towards and conform to. I do not claim to be an observer in this; I have been guilty many-a-times of being biased in a particular direction towards a book after reading a review. Of course, most publishers love the critics for this for boosts in sales and whatnot, but I digress.

The bottom line is, a book is meant to lend perspective. Irrespective of the genre, it is meant to add some value to who you are. Whatever the hell you do, don’t let anybody tell you what and how much value you want a book to add to your life. Because that is direct reflection of every moment you’ve passed by. I’m sure I’ve been beaten to the punch in this realization by countless people and that it’s common knowledge. But it’s a whole different understanding when it springs out on you and shows you that the culmination of your thought process has been what many before have said. And at the risk of sounding very clich├ęd and asking for jokes to be made in my general direction, let yourself decide how you want to enrich your life, not someone else!