...reading for enjoyment is what we all should be doing. I don't mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that's what you want to read, it's fine by me, because here's something no one will ever tell you: if you don't read the classics or the novel that won this year's Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud...
Which is the line of defence I use when people question why I try to spend all of my youth budget on Hellboy. But then I realised that the "walking through thick mud" quote is rather similar to how I have described reading Patrick White. Although I prefer to say it is like swimming through treacle.
Despite this, I love the work of Patrick White. I've started Voss at least four times, I've read The Twyborn Affair twice (and got different things out of it) I find A Fringe of Leaves to be a wonderful read, I saw a Sydney Theatre Company performance of The Ham Funeral which was some of the best theatre I have ever seen. In short, there is a lot to be said for "walking through thick mud" because the willingness to push yourself beyond your comfort zone is important.
So when I saw this little opinion piece in the Herald The Great Patrick White Massacre Is About To Be Unleashed I was more than a little taken aback.
The discovery of Patrick White's rough drafts just shows that there's a good and bad side to everything. The five people in the world who actually read Patrick White novels will be pleased...
This is the sort of Dickhead thinking that saw Shakespeare taken off school reading lists. But just because not everyone is set up to read Patrick White (or Shakespeare) doesn't mean that we should be preventing those who want to, to give it a try. Nor should we hold back from giving those who could read something a bit more high brow a push in that direction. Because while Nick Hornby says "we have to promote the joys of reading, rather than the (dubious) benefits" I would suggest that we could strike a balance and rather than turn out a whole generation of average students who all read average books we could suggest something more challenging. But then this is Australia, the great egalitarian land and if we give some kids Patrick White and other kids Selby Goes To Fluffy Bunny Town then we might be suggesting that some kids are smarter than others and that would cause our entire society to fall down into a screaming great heap. Because in Australia we are all equally gifted intellectually and the only way to tell one person from another is by our Sporting Ability.
Funny, this seems to have taken a turn away from what I started writing.
So let me end with
Read Patrick White, it might not be as simple to read as Hovercar Racer but it's well worth the effort. And it might get you thinking about this putrefying averageness which invades every aspect of Australian society. White knew about it and fought it but Matthew Reilly (and many other authors) just seems to be exploiting it as a market for books which are as intellectually bankrupt as most of the vapid TV we get spoonfed.