Flavia has good a post up about a book that she read and that, quoting Dorothy Parker, she says she wants to hurl with great force out of her house. It's a book about a guy having a mushy, lukewarm crisis of faith. She also says that she doesn't necessarily finish books any more once she's given them a fair (100 pages, more than fair) chance.
Finishing books? Not necessarily, any more. I recently tried a modern classic, but after reading the preface about how it would be challenging, frustrating, and confusing, even a little boring with all the digressions, but that the 1000+ pages would be totally worth the effort, I let the Kindle app quietly return it to the library without forging ahead. Maybe I'll try again in twenty or thirty years. If I'm going to work that hard, I'd rather work, if you see what I mean.
No, the thing that worries me a little is that in rereading some classics, including my recent stretch of visiting the mid-century males, my first reaction is often no longer "This is a Timeless Classic with Enduring Themes and Universal Truths," the gospel I was taught, but "Oh, great--more twentysomething guy problems." As Mark Twain once said of James Fenimore Cooper in a very different but totally hilarious context, I'm seeing through a glass eye, darkly.
I can't tell whether this is a gender issue or an age one, since I've read so many more novels since first encountering those classics. I can still appreciate all the formal stuff and even a little stylistic fancy footwork, but in the big Crisis of Faith moments, a still, small voice in the back of my head is saying something like "Dude. You are worrying about this, really? Get a grip."
The Alternavoice hasn't always been there when I read. I think reading all the junk on the web has cultivated it, from listicles to the faux questions at Slate and HuffPo and now all the news sites. It's not there with everything I read, which is a good thing.
And the Alternavoice isn't all bad. It slips out in class sometimes, in some almost-snark pointing out problems in a text. I don't want to go all trollish on a piece of writing, of course, but it's good for the students to see that what we're reading isn't holy writ and that there's another way to look at the hero's dilemma.
Maybe I need to write up an assignment where they can let their Alternavoices loose, but once it's out of the cage, as evidenced in my brain in the last year or so, it's out for good.
Do you have this voice when you read literature? Is there some situation or plotline that especially brings it out?