I don’t read a lot of Sinhala novels and it’s mostly because the language can get super confusing. I know Sinhala, I can read it without any issue but dialect plays a huge role in novels.
If we talk about English novels for a second, novels by Irvine Welsh, for instance, can’t be easily understood if you aren’t familiar with accents. The same applies to Sinhala novels, to an extent. Words and phrases depend on what the author is used to or the region or era the story is based on. This puts me off Sinhala novels because I quite honestly don’t have the patience to dissect language.
This is perhaps why I found Appachchi Awith to be an easy read and also a hard to put down book. The storyline had a lot to do with it too, and it’s a book I would recommend to anyone.
I was talking about the book with a friend and they mentioned something along the lines of people not liking the book because the psychological elements may have put them off. And in a way, I get it. The book can be read without any understanding of mental disorders, but it helps to know what’s what.
But this made me think about what we really expect from books and movies. I am your average pretentious reader. I sometimes scoff at certain authors or genres. “Oh god, you read cheesy romance?” I would think. I will judge people by what they read.
And yet, I never applied this to movies and TV shows, and the reason is that I like movies and TV shows that don’t carry much depth or ‘value’. I have watched movies like 27 Dresses or Sweet Home Alabama or When Harry Met Sally or Four Weddings and a Funeral so many times. I love the cheesy scenes and dialogue and predictable endings.
So why didn’t I think of some films or TV shows as ‘beneath me’ the way I looked at some books? Well, I suppose it’s because of what I expect from them.
The thing about people who read is that they sometimes dictate what’s good reading and what’s bad or embarrassing. Some books are considered must-reads while others are guilty pleasures. But who makes these rules?
Now I know that we shouldn’t care about what other people think or say. But sometimes these opinions affect us without us even being conscious of it. And then we create this divide between those who read; the ones that read something of value and those who read garbage. We categorize authors as such, and we shame or ridicule people for not reading anyone worth reading.
But that shouldn’t be the case. I used to look down at romance and YA and what not, but guess what I go back to after a heavy read? YA. While the books often tackle important themes like mental health, relationships, bullying, sexuality, etc. they do so in a way that doesn’t wear you out or weigh you down.
Coming back to that initial question; what do we expect from books and movies?
From movies and TV shows, I expect entertainment. If I’m watching a movie at home, I often scroll down Twitter or Facebook while the movie plays. Very few movies demand my undivided attention. And very few movies make me think about it later on. Movies like 28 and Christopher Robin made me think about them days after I watched them, but most are just for those two or three hours that they go on for. After the movie ends, I forget about them, and I decide if I liked the movie or not by how I felt while watching it and not how I felt after.
Yesterday, I watched Bohemian Rhapsody. I loved it, and would love to watch it again. But it’s not a movie I’m taking anything from. I know that it’s not factual or a 100 percent accurate. I know that there are people involved who may want to make themselves look good when presented to the world. But for me, it’s not a source I’d use to learn about Queen or Freddie Mercury. For me, it was a movie that shows bits and pieces of Queen’s career and covered some of their songs.
It was emotional. I cried in the cinema. As I said, I want to watch it again. But I wasn’t looking for a life-changing experience. This isn’t something I expect from movies or TV shows and I think that this is why I’m surprised when a movie or TV show does move me in some way.
Books on the other hand don’t get away that easily. I expect more from them. I expect books to reach in to me and change the way I am. I want books to leave a mark, a scar. I want to be blown away once I read that last word.
I want more than what is between the covers when it comes to books. And this is perhaps why we categorize books and make people feel bad for reading certain genres and authors.
And this is why I’ve been trying to read more than what I think are good books. I want to read YA novels and romance novels. I want to read novels that don’t leave you with anything at the end. I want to gives books a chance the way I give movies and TV a chance. I want to have zero expectations.
I want to stop being a pretentious reader. I think we all should. You can read a book to be educated. You can read it and then take it with you for a while longer by doing more reading about certain things covered or mentioned in the book. Or you can read it, put it down and let it go. Forget about it completely. Look only to be entertained or occupied for whatever time it took you to read it.
I don’t want to read the good books only. I want to read anything and everything. Or at least as much as I can in this short time I have on Earth. Because when you forget those bestseller lists and award winners, you can find treasures. You can find some amazingly underrated books or authors by giving everything a chance.