Smedley’s Principles for Good Reading
As just one more service offered to our community, Geezer Wally Smedley is pleased to present his “Principles of Good Reading: Part I What Not to Read,” in hopes that many unsuspecting book readers will be spared from the harm generated from reading a bad book. He proposes that his “Principles” are needed more today than anytime in the past, in that with the advent of e-readers and vanity publication, there are so many lousy books in circulation, it leaves the reader with an almost hopeless task of trying to find just one quality book among the thousands of “bow-wows” out there these days.
What harm is there, you say, from choosing a clunker? Smedley responds: “Well, for starters, how about a sizeable waste of the reader’s valuable time? This is especially true in this community so populated by folks who don’t have a lot of minutes left on their clock. Imagine leaving this earth and meeting Your Maker while you are finishing the last chapter of 50 Shades of Grey while leaving, unread, The Book of Martyrs!”
Quoting from Smedley’s Principles: “Another danger from reading a lousy book – as identified by featuring main characters – people who are venial, drug-crazed, ego-centric, sex-starved, alcohol-craving, immoral, greedy wise guys (or gals) – is that in the reader’s lust for these “heroes” to score a win over the “bad guys,” the reader subconsciously is accepting moral compromises as a valid option in life. This ingestion of “garbage in, garbage out” can subtly erode one’s moral standards, and has the potential to move non-discriminating readers into an irreversible state of back-sliding!” (Editors Note: While Smedley often goes overboard in his judgments, he is not too far off base here: to wit, consider that what is dominating TV today are very popular series with anti-heroes cast as the main characters – such as The Affair, Orange is the New Black, Housewives of Beverly Hills, House of Cards, the Bachelor, Dexter. Breaking Bad, ad infinitum ad nauseum).
To guard against the subversion of a reader’s soul, Smedley urges all readers to heed his five Rules in choosing a book.
Rule #1 Skim Diligently: A book under consideration must be skimmed – not read – looking for the type of language used in the book. If he book is littered with foul language, it is automatically DQ’d. One “F” is one too many! If the skimming reveals explicit sex episodes, “86″ it!
If the plot as outlined on the jacket portrays immoral people as heroes, try to determine if there might be some intrinsic value before dismissing it out of hand. This is a tricky area in that some of the best stories are of flawed people who find redemption in their journey as the story unfolds.
Rule #2 Reality/Credibility Sniff Test: Once into a book, be ready to bail if amnesia or other corny devices are used. A good read must have credibility, first and foremost, so any manipulation of reality kills it. Smedley has little patience with science fiction, zombies, aliens, and super-hero books.
Another important factor Smedley discusses is: “Does the author know his subject?” Often the difference between a compelling read and a ho-hummer is how well the author has it right. For instance, many novels that deal with the stock market or science are so uninformed, that these stories lack credibility and thus, readability.
Another important quality for a good read is that the central characters must have some qualities that cause you to care for them or at least, identify with them, Whatever it is – be they likeable or fascinating – there must be an emotional or an intellectual attachment to the main characters. A good test: Do you really care what happens or you can’t wait to finish the book? If the latter, Smedley says put it down and move on to another book. Sometimes reading a book is like a box of chocolates: you don’t know what is inside each piece until you bite into it.
Next Week: Part II of Smedley’s Principles for Good Reading.