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Reading for Pleasure

I don't read for pleasure, though I read often. I warrant that a lot of particularly obsessed authors no longer can. I tend to incidentally enjoy those things I read, but there is always an ulterior motive behind it. Either I am reading to pry out some fact or opinion to inform one of my stories or I am wondering "What do they do better than me? What do they do worse? What would I do with this material?" Or, possibly, "Why am I bothering to do anything clever if this if the sort of dreck that gets a wide release?"

Books exist with an additional dimension for me, that of time. I can guess at the elements of their making, see the marks left by scaffolding most readers are content to ignore as stylistic choices. I am not bragging, it definitely lessens my enjoyment of the end product to be so focused on allusions, acts, and assonance. I need to figure out the "whys" of the story before I can put it into focus. I cannot muffle this inner critic who sees every paragraph as grist for the mill (or more grit to sand the rough edges of my own prose). I've met those who feel this way about music. This awareness seems to irritate them. They may be jubilant because some piece manages somehow not to disappoint, but these moment are exceedingly rare and, even when they find such a blessed reprieve from banality, outsiders cannot begin to care enough because they are not hearing the same songs. It is nothing they can shut up to enjoy Top 40 radio.

Most writers are threats, even if they do not consider themselves so. Especially if they do not, because to them it would be like a lion worried about a mouse. I do not care to fraternize with those who are my opponents for space on your bookshelf, though they are permitted - nay, encouraged - to buy dozens of copies of my books to scrutinize.

Right now, I am reading Preppy Suicides (the first book The Crossroad Series), a novel-in-progress written by one of my friends, Michael Mammano. In general, I would be skittish to read work written by someone I know, for fear they would be terrible, trite, or some fault that would taint my enjoyment with the knowledge that I had to couch my criticism under politeness. But he is quite good. It helps, no doubt, that his novel is about the political intrigue in boarding schools, rather than about dead gods and the people who love them; he is not treading heavily on terrain I seek to make mine. I just passed a bit about two people silently flirting and I had to concede that it was so good that I wished aloud that I had written it. This is the highest form of praise I know. I will do all I can to see it published, if just to give Michael's competitors more fuel for the fire that should be stoked under them if they ever hope to match him.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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