Archive for January, 2012

‘The Ring of Solomon’ by Jonathan Stroud

January 25, 2012

Another Bartimaeus book, this one set in the time of the biblical Solomon, though this book’s Solomon seems very unlike the biblical one. Very entertaining, like the first three; great fun!

But is it Literature?? I seem constantly beset by worries about whether the books I like might be ‘trivial’. I suppose there is an objective, if very fuzzy, scale of triviality for books. But God didn’t grant me immediate perception of objective triviality, so I must content myself with my subjective impressions of what seems trivial and what doesn’t. For example, some formulations in The Coffin Dancer seemed to me to indicate triviality. (That is to say, there are books which seem trivial even to me.) I guess if there are books which I enjoy and which don’t seem trivial to me, but which nevertheless actually are trivial, then it is still okay for me to enjoy them: it’s just that my triviality receptors aren’t yet sufficiently sensitive to detect the triviality (or that kind of triviality). By reading more, my threshold for being bored by certain kinds of formulation or figures of speech, or whatever, sinks: sooner or later I get the feeling that I have seen this kind of thing a thousand times before.

So, although there probably is some absolute sense of ‘trivial’, what’s more important to me is a relative sense of triviality: what feels trivial to you depends on what you have read before. If you haven’t yet seen much then much will be new to you. Maybe that’s why The Velvet Underground bore me: when the band appeared, the kind of music they played may have been revolutionary; but when I finally got around to hear their music I had already heard so much music influenced by that revolution that there wasn’t anything new and interesting for me in it.

And why shouldn’t I be allowed to enjoy even absolutely stupid stuff? If I enjoy it I enjoy it, and that’s that. After all, you can’t change your enjoyment or boredom; you can just pretend to be bored by (while actually enjoying) what some ‘elite’ deems trivial. Probably what I’m really worried about is that I might appear to lack standards – to be stupid.