Every time I mention that I like a particular book, someone would ask me about a certain detail in it, or if I have a favourite moment. That’s when you’d find me flustering, looking like a 7-year-old who had just been asked to recite his multiplication tables in front of a committee of old, grumpy Mathematics professors. As my B:Read mates (colleagues?) would attest, I’m not very good with details.
Even if I were to discuss with you one of my favourite books ever, Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman), I’d be hard-pressed to even describe a single chapter in the format of an extremely vague summary. I’ve been attacked for this several times. They say “oh, but if you don’t remember what happens in Chapter 7, page 32, line 21, then surely you can’t claim to love the book!”.
Something about a man proposing to a giant stone eagle?
If I was unreasonable, I’d slap them in the face and call their mothers names that would make a sailor blush. Instead, I often just dismiss statements like that, preferring not to go into excruciatingly lengthy and unnecessary detail on why I don’t know my favourite books in excruciatingly lengthy and unnecessary detail. But hey, since B:Read have somewhat foolishly inducted me into their committee, now I can express myself here. And in Comic Sans no less. EDIT: I’ve been Comic Sans-blocked.
Let me begin by saying that I do understand the values of knowing your favourite books by heart. It allows you to discuss with fellow lovers of the book about characters, themes, and plots to your heart’s content. It’s also a good tool to 1-Up people in the implied ‘who loves this book more’ competition that always happens in these discussions. Just go to our next book meet for examples (ZING! OH NO YOU DI’N’T).
And no, I won’t dismiss all those important points with one big BUT. They are all valid points that I can’t sweep under the rug and ignore by way of passing acknowledgement. You can’t believe how hard it is for me to avoid saying the word ‘but’ after this very sentence.
But personally I don’t judge how much people love a book by how much of the book they know. I will now introduce a clumsy analogy of having a loved one compared with having a loved book. When you love someone, you don’t need to know every detail about them. I doubt that every parent know every single thing about their offspring. But you wouldn’t doubt a parent’s love for their child. I feel the same way about a loved book.
Boo! I hear you say. Clumsy analogy. Invalid comparison. Blah de blah de blah. Okay, you’ve got a valid point, Mr. Imaginary Contrarian who can’t speak in full sentences. I know, they’re not the same. You can’t compare a loved one to a loved book. A loved book is just more precious.
Not exactly Sophie’s Choice, is it?
I love a book when it gives me an overwhelming feeling of emotional or intellectual satisfaction. I approach books the same way I approach music: I view them as one whole, rather than the sum of its parts. When I listen to music, I much prefer to listen through the whole album instead of taking in individual songs. Even when reviewing music, I often don’t remember song titles or lyrics, focusing instead on the feelings I get from listening to them.
This is why I steer clear of historical fiction or fantasy books that has a heavy focus on lore. Remembering details, names, dates, history, and endless threads and subplots aren’t my specialty. I acknowledge that as a weakness of mine, and I’m not shifting the blame towards the genres by saying it’s their fault.
But to accuse someone for not loving a book because that someone doesn’t have every detail on his mind ready to dispense on demand smacks of uncalled-for elitism. Everyone has their own way of enjoying a book. One of my favorite books ever, ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, has only about eight lines, and I still can’t quote any of it to you (and if I try, I’ll get it wrong anyway).
And then Max said “I now pronounce you Sir Horn-a-lot-or-something-like-that”
I take it back when I said not remembering most of the details is a weakness. It’s not. Just like not being able to read all of the Lord of the Rings books in one weekend is not a flaw. Some people can, some people can’t, and that’s totally fine. No need to get all high and mighty about it.
TLDR: Why are you on B:Read, if you’re not going to read? Shame on you. Go sit in the corner and read a book.