I stumbled across this lovely post from A Striped Armchair, which made me smile as it took me back to American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I truly love Gaiman’s work. I’ve read Anasazi Boys, American Gods, and, of course, Good Omens. I have Neverwhere on my shelf and I’ve been meaning to get to it.
But Gaiman is really difficult for me to read. I don’t know why; I’ve always finished his books with a sense of satisfaction and a head full of thoughts. I enjoy the experience of reading them; it just takes a good deal more effort than most other books I’ve read.
I’m going to be honest and say I’m pretty talented at reading. I have excellent reading comprehension skills, I’ve an extremely fast reader, and I read way above my grade level all throughout primary school. (To make up for that, I’m absolutely terrible at geometry, have the visualization skills of a sickly gnat, and really struggle with memorizing anything.) There are styles that I dislike – Cormac McCarthy comes to mind – but rarely do I find something that is actually difficult for me to get through.
Gaiman, of course, is a struggle – all the details, maybe? Perhaps the way every sentence has more than one meaning and I have to carefully consider every element from multiple angles? – and David Foster Wallace is kickin’ my ass with Infinite Jest. (I’m so lost, guys! So very, very lost!)
And the thing is, I’ve read tons of “difficult books.” I’ve read wordy nonfictions and pretentious articles; academic papers seemingly designed to confuse the reader; weighty tomes with long passages and a confusing array of characters. I struggled less with The Master and Margarita than I do with either Wallace or Gaiman. Sure, I don’t understand everything or catch all the nuances but the ease of putting the story together was always there. I wasn’t constantly flipping back because I knew there was a detail I wasn’t remembering or stopping every five minutes to consciously puzzle things together.
A small part of me is glad I can challenge myself not just with ideas but with the actual act of reading and reminds myself that it’s lucky I’m easily able to do something I enjoy so much. A much less adult part of me just wants to pout and go “It’s not fair! It’s so hard!” as I work my way through their books. (It’s good for you, adult me mutters. It’ll build character. Stop whining. Many people struggle with reading. Yeah, toddler me whines, but I bet they didn’t have to spend a whole summer in the Wal-Mart parking lot practicing parking before they got it right.)
What about you? Do you read with ease or with effort? Is there an author or book you love but struggle with?