For the second time in a matter of weeks I was asked the same dreaded question – ‘What are you reading at the moment?’ The first time I was asked was in the context of an interview and the second was by a friend. Both times I inwardly squirmed.
As the question left my interlocutor’s lips, flitting across the cinema screen of my mind were great tomes by masters like Lewis and Macdondald. I could see the pile of theology books I’ve been meaning to read for so long. I thought of my wife who devours thick books in a matter of hours.
I wanted the ground to swallow me up. For what was my answer? Jack Reacher. Yes – the books that led to the Tom Cruise films (though why they cast him to play the 6’5” Reacher I have no idea). Affectionately known by some as airport fiction, or as the French say – romans de gare. The light reading that you can indulge in while sitting on a beach.
You see, I’m not a great reader. I can’t read nearly as fast as my wife and I feel quite embarrassed when surrounded by folk who seem to feast on the classics for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy reading, I just don’t do a lot of it. I should add that I don’t think my questioners thought less of me for not reading so widely, but I silently groan at my lack of it.
However it has got me thinking. What is it about such pop-fiction that holds this attraction (and embarrassment on my part)? Are they really the literary equivalent of a Happy Meal? Or is there something more to them?