The importance of reading…

I’ve just come in from a few hours at the Winchester Writers’ Conference, where mostly, I chatted with Paul House about this and that. 

Mostly that. 

If you want the truth. 

But one of the things that I fancy we both agree on is the need for more reading to inform the writing.  Because reading those classics, which so many people think is passe, does inform our minds, does give us a framework of imagery and ideas…

We were talking at one point about W. Somerset Maugham, who, sadly, no one but us seems to be reading any longer.  Now this is quite wrong. 

Because he was a tremendous novelist with a great deal to say.  He also wrote some of the finest short stories in the English language.  And he was a sell-out playwright as well.  (So, you could say, he was obviously doing something right…)

But beyond that, I could make a joke about his work, Cakes and Ale, and House could ask “Maugham’s or Shakespeare’s cakes”?   And both authors inform our literary landscape.

And I rather think that from there, we drifted into a discussion of House’s newest novel PIGS, and how it may or may not have been influenced by Women in Love.

We also met some lovely people there, I should say.  And that is always the best thing about these events.  And we even heard that dread word, the word so many people have been trying to consign to the dustbin for the obsolete, literature.  Which also was quite exciting. 

But one of the great things about reading is that here are these works by great authors, and in their works, they’re there, showing you all the most superlative literary tricks, techniques, how to handle dialogue, plot, character, imagery…and it’s all there for free.  Dickens.  Maugham.  Priestley.  Fitzgerald.  Woolf.  Wodehouse…to name a few favourites. 

Just read. 

Because everything you want to know?  It’s all there.

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6 comments on “The importance of reading…

  1. Toby Neal says:

    I’ve been on a reading fast in order to force myself to write, rewrite, discipline, etc. It is a desert wasteland populated only by “how to write” books which is all I allow myself on this self imposed diet.

    then, in a moment of rebellion, I treated myself to Diana Gabaldon’s latest GIGANTIC hardback, six pounds if an ounce of contradiction to all the predicted trends in publishing… and its like disappearing into Scotland of the 17oos and letting the long hot summer of discouragement (my personal experience right now) roll on by without me. *waves*

    So much for diets.

  2. Piotr says:

    I’ve been reading too…. ummm, does comics count?

  3. cavalrytales says:

    Just to see what’s being touted on the market, I’ve recently read some published ebook novel extracts. They made me realise why there are concerns over the quality of much writing offered to the public, and whether this will ultimately affect buyers to the degree that only a few well-known or heavily-promoted writers will sell in any volume.
    So in a way, it was a useful, if disappointing, excercise. But it served to hammer home one edict.
    Edit. Then edit again. And again, and again, and again.

  4. cavalrytales says:

    Yeah…know what you mean.
    I was just being economical with the ‘again’ word.

    And ‘etc’ is so passe nowadays, he said, trying desperately to introduce a note of latent sophistication into his meandering, two-day-late post.

    Time for bed, methinks (yawn).

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