If there’s a song or musical group that’s at the top of the charts, people often tend to be surprised when they find you haven’t heard or heard of it. There are many, many examples of this for me. I couldn’t identify a Michael Bubbles song if my life depended on it. I… can’t even think of who might be at the top of the charts right now to provide examples about who I don’t know.
I notice, however, that nobody’s surprised if you haven’t read the same books they have. Maybe I just don’t hang around enough English majors. It might be because books require such a huge investment compared to a pop song, or because there are just so many of them. And of course, aside from The DaVinci Code or Harry Potter, not many books make it onto Entertainment Tonight.
It’s a little bit disappointing. There are so many great books out there. I went through a phase where I wrote down the title of every book I heard referenced in conversation or in television shows (the reputable kind of references, where they might mention a character or a quote without explicitly saying it was a reference to anything at all, as though everybody who’s anybody knows who Holden Cauffield is) but I soon realised I wasn’t reading them nearly as fast as I needed to to keep up. Even amongst all these books reference in pop culture and ones found on lists of “literary classics”, it’s very difficult to find ones that actually appeal to you. Pop songs are a dime a dozen and float around everywhere on thin wisps of substance. Good books are heavy and like to hide in obscure places.
This was all particularly evident last week while listening to CBC’s Canada Reads. There I was, listening to a group of people debate about what which book every person in Canada should read, and I hadn’t heard of a single one of them. Last year three of them went on my reading list (the book of poetry and one by Mordecai Richler failed to make the cut) and I’ve sadly only read one so far. This year another four are being added. I should get to them by the end of the decade.
The sadest thing of all is that nobody will notice if I don’t read them. They will just stay hidden beneath clouds of shallow lyrics and rhythmic beats, unappreciated by the masses. It is a blind spot too many people share and too few people notice.