In a previous post I explained how buying a book is like buying a car. Today, I will expand on this idea a little. As before, first I need to talk a little about cars. To be more precise, I want to talk about driving cars.
My wife and I bought our first car a little under 3 months ago. It is a small automatic and thus far (touch wood) I have had no problems with it whatsoever. Of course, this is only my experience. For Katie, things have been very different. Although to be fair, the car has been against her from the start.
The first time that Katie drove the car she steered it into a bush. Her reasons for doing this are still not entirely clear. The result of this accident (deliberate would be a more accurate term) is two scratches running parallel across the entire length of the passenger side. I begged her to be more careful the next time and to think before she acts.
Her next motoring drama occurred just weeks ago when she tried to parallel park for the first time. I stated earlier that our car is an automatic and up until that point, I did not think it possible for such a car to stall. Evidently, I was wrong. About five minutes (!) into the manoeuvre the engine began to have a panic attack. It reminded me of the noise created when I apply pressure to an egg as it fries. Seconds later, it went dead. Stalled. It also would not restart. Well, for Katie at least. When I got in it started just fine and I was able to park without further problems.
As you can probably guess, the next time that Katie came to drive she was a little nervous. As it turned out, so too was the car. It would not start. In fact, it refused to even let her turn the key in the ignition.
'The car hates me,' she said.
She may have had a point. When I got in, it started with no problems whatsoever (as it has every time before and since). In the weeks that followed, Katie has taken the car out for small journeys and is slowly rebuilding its trust. The driving is never fun for her.
So how then, can these experiences be applied to the art of reading? The main point to consider is that both Katie and I have had very different experiences of driving. Same car, different drivers = very different outcomes. And so it is with reading. What makes literature the most versatile of art forms is the fact that every reader's experience is unique. For each person, the characters who inhabit the fictional world each have their own unique voices and traits that are different to all who come across them. No matter how descriptive a piece of writing is, there is no guarantee that a reader will picture things how the writer wants them too. As with Katie and the car, sometimes a reader and a book simply do not go well together. This does not mean that it is a badly written book. Nor does it mean that the reader has a deficient imagination. It just means that sometimes it is not meant to be.