one result, unintended, of intentionally cutting back on the children's books (my goodreads 'about me' had said, for more than a decade: "it's not true i read nothing but children's literature; but my enemies may well be forgiven for thinking so.") -- specifically, my new policy of limiting them one-for-one to non-children's lit -- is the rapidity with which i am discarding unpromising children's books after the first quarter rather than plodding through ("to give it a fair airing") then tossing them back down the library return chute (and giving them a desultory 2 stars)*
but this is perhaps about tension too -- and time and aging. they pull (though i don't think they ought have to pull) in opposite directions, the two anxieties of getting older. the first being that time becomes more precious; one no longer has the illusion of unlimited resources -- you don't want to waste time reading what is mediocre, frivolous, uninteresting; that goes for what we do or see, where we go, what we eat. the second is the fear of being less willing to experiment, to challenge oneself, and of stagnating intellectually. i loathe it when people wait for the yearly long lists of bookers or oscars and then check things off that list -- yes, that would sieve out the very poor, but in a very narrow and conventional way -- after all that is what the average is, by definition, is it not? If you depend on other people to curate opinion for you, the outcome of that curation is simply an aggregate of conventional tastes -- what is good because it caters to a large enough number of people (we leave the politics of publishing industry aside) -- the truly unique, which are the ones most likely to have been polarising, don't show up. and one doesn't develop taste by accustomising one's experience to the generic idea of good (don't confuse mediocrity with incompetence; the conventionally competent is mediocre.) one does that by trying new things: not efficient, necessarily. i would go to twenty new things, and probably 10 of them will be meh, and 9 are good to really good, on par with the conventionally good, and then one of them would be bloody amazing and worth any number of the conventional (and even the ones that are just meh teach me something about what can be done better.)
*the one-starrers, though, i've never had compunction in ditching; usually by "adult"authors writing for children and being singularly revolting at it: a whole different volume can be written about that alone, people who aren't fit to write for children: one wonders what these people had read as children that they imagine children would enjoy their patronising ghastliness; one wonders if they had ever been children, if their fictional children so very psychologically one-dimensional and dim.