Adam and I were discussing The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway when we began discussing complex books vs. simplistic books. We started discussing it because I was talking about how The Old Man and the Sea speaks in very simplistic language. I personally am a fan of classic literature books, books that follow the style of Jane Austen’s writing period, and also books that make you think. It’s not very common that I read a book written in simplistic terms. While it’s a nice break, I enjoy reading to enrich my mind, grow my vocabulary, make me think, and also make stop and pause to look and appreciate the things around me.
Adam had said he wished more writers would write simplistically. He felt that books get overly wordy and explain everything in such small detail. He would rather be able to think about what it looked like, smelt like, felt like, etc on his own. He wants authors to cut out the “fluff” and get down to the nitty-gritty. I can agree with him about fluff to a degree. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has almost a full chapter explaining in extreme detail about a turtle crossing the road. It is the MOST boring thing I’ve ever read in my life. So on the subject of “fluff” I can agree to a degree with Adam.
The more and more I thought about what we were discussing the stronger I felt for books that weren’t super simplistic. In my eyes reading holds the keys to enriching people’s lives and minds. For people who will never be able to travel to Europe in their lifetime, they can pick up a book and read about what it’s like. Those that will never make it scuba diving, mountain climbing, sky diving etc, they can pick up a book and read about others experiences doing it. None of us know what it was like to live in the past when King Henry VIII ruled, but we can pick up a book and read about what it was like. If writing was always written simplistically, we might not be able to experience any of these things through words.
Reading complex things also expands your intelligence. The more you read the better your vocabulary gets and your sentence structure get stronger. You learn to recognize metaphors, themes, similes, protagonists, antagonists, conflicts, resolutions, etc.
When I think of classic literature I don’t think of simplistic authors or simplistic books – I see Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, Poe, Arthur Miller, Steinbeck, etc. I see Pride and Prejudice, Macbeth, North and South, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales, etc. These books are taught in schools and taught year after year because we learn from them. As a child you’re taught with picture books, then you begin reading and move to chapter books, as we get older and our brains can handle more we begin reading “the classics.” That is how we progress on to college and into the working environment. As our brains retain more knowledge our reading levels change, allowing us to read more complex books. I think in order to continue to grow intellectually, that adults should read complex books. Throwing in a simplistic book here and there is ok, it gives your brain a rest, which is definitely necessary.
As I was talking to Todd last night I said to him that I think reading books with details is important as well. For me reading poetry expands the meaning of love, reading books that discuss the look, smell, taste of things enriches my own senses. Reading about a sunrise/sunset and then seeing one – I can understand the text better and understand the beauty around me.
I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on what I’ve said. Adam has been kind enough to begin writing a response to my thoughts that I’ll post up before the week is out. Please comment and let me know what side of the argument you fall on!