I’ve fallen behind on the book I’m reading right now, so I’m not ready to report on it. Instead, I’d like to briefly share some slightly disorganized thoughts on why more people (such as myself) don’t like to read “serious” fiction. I blame high school.
Most of the books I remember reading in my high school English class weren’t, I strongly suspect, written for teenagers in high school. I doubt that William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies for high school sophomores. Nathaniel Hawthorne probably didn’t have high school juniors as his intended audience for The Scarlet Letter. Did J.D. Salinger deliberately write The Catcher in the Rye for teenagers?
Literature is generally written for adults. I was in a bookstore on Saturday and saw the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor. My reaction was, “Good Lord! Why?!” There certainly is an educative function in exposing students to literature, but are they really being turned off from it because much of it isn’t written for them and doesn’t interest them? Why is there an audience for Cliff Notes? It’s because Cliff Notes are written with a high school audience in mind.
I’m not sure what the solution is. It should involve making sure that the books students read aren’t read just because they’re traditional, or the instructor likes them, or because they’re “good books.” The goal should be that high school shouldn’t turn off students from reading.