Donna Tartt's excellent novel has won the Pulitzer for Best Fiction. So allow me to be a pretentious jackass for a moment, and rail against reading books wrong. Yes, you can read them wrong. Yes, there are worthy arguments and rubbish arguments. Yes, books have merits and qualities, the recognition of which enhance the reading experience. Going on Twitter to see how people reacted to the news, I was saddened by negative reactions of the book. One person tweeted Tartt had won the "Poo-litzer." Now, Twitter is not the place for a reasoned and compelling argument, but I would like to know what the detractors mean when they slam the book. But I can kind of guess. Whenever you read a criticism of anything that includes the word "boring" chances are the reviewer didn't get the work. It's one of those terms that means nothing, is objectively hard to quantify, and means the reader had his personality too much in the way. One's persons "boring" is another's "gripping." I think what they really mean is "not to my taste."

So let's look at what taste is. My American Heritage Desk Dictionary defines it in the relevant two forms: 5. A personal preference and 6. The ability to discern what is aesthetically appropriate. I would say that most people in this social media reviewing age use the first definition as their criteria, and judge a book by pure liking, what they want to read, what they want the characters to be like, if they want to be friends with the characters, and whether the plot appealed to them. They ignore language, structure, theme, author commentary, verisimilitude, world building, psychological realism, and the literary movements and genres the work traffics in and is historically part of. What I would want is the second definition, which is keeping all of the above in mind and then applying judgment to the book. Daniel Mendelsohn, the writer and ancient Greek scholar, once a wrote a blog post on how to be a critic, and his shorthand was cultivating "taste and judgment." I also think he meant the second definition and not the first.

Reading anything or watching anything or listening to anything, is a way of seeing. You're seeing what the artist has laid out for you. You're on her territory, with a map and trying to find the pot of gold that is intellectual and emotional fulfillment. In such a case, what you want is irrelevant. After all, you didn't take this journey to find yourself. You took the journey to find a new land, and be shocked and confronted and provoked, so much so, that who you are changes, even if just a little bit. Indirectly, without intending it you found yourself and found where you live, and there's no guarantee that the recognition will be pleasant and the knowledge comforting. That's what reading, ideally, should be. If you have your ego yammering away at you all the while you're on this journey about what it wants, you'll miss the surroundings and the experience, and, ultimately, the wisdom. Or, just the entertainment, the rollicking good time. That's just like my opinion, man.