August 29, 2013

Reading is everything

Dear M,

I came across an interview when I was scouting the Internet for a publisher. You know I have those spells of snooping around for good, small publishers who might be just the ones for good, small me? So there was this publisher's website and an interview with their new (and perhaps only) author. I would not comment more on the premise, but I was surprised to read the author confessing proudly that she/he started reading books (fiction) only after her/his first book was published.

I don't have anything against the author, because as a new kid on the block, I had made one loud blunder too. (Which I prefer to forget and never mention in this life again.) But this author writing a book without having read anything in life? If she/he is not a genius, then the book is a full-fledged disaster.

Reading is everything. I have nothing more to add to this, the sentence says it all.

I have an author friend whom I respect a great deal. His grasp of current affairs and his general knowledge are impeccable. He has a job that takes him places, and he must have such an ocean of stories and experiences to share. He reads all kinds of books, whenever he gets time. His stories are promising, and as far as the synopses go, they have huge potential. I only see two major problems in his writing: the first is his utter disregard for grammar, the second is his hyper obsession with vocabulary.

Perhaps the two issues are connected: it could be because of his obsession for new words that he did not pay much attention to polishing his grammar. Or he must have worked too hard on his vocabulary to cover his grammatical incompetence. Either way, He ruminated, she rued, etc. stand out from his text as though they were planted there to scare the crows.

In his defence, English is not his first language, possibly not even his second or third. In this country where we are lashed with all kinds of languages from all sides every day, English is only used when the rest of them don't work - at least in his line of duty and in the place where he lives. What he has achieved is tremendous when we consider these facts.

What I am trying to say is (I can see you are confused), there should be a balance between the grammar and the vocabulary. If the grammar is faultless, the vocabulary, however ordinary or outstanding it is, may not look odd (or it may). But if the grammar fails and the vocabulary is extraordinary, the outcome will be a failure.

How in the world can we expect our structure to stand on its own and with a perfect blend of grammar and vocabulary, if we do not have any experience reading books? How in the world do we expect to build our knowledge and have the words at our finger tips without reading daily? How in the world do we expect to be able to use the vast capabilities of the language if it is not cemented to perfection by reading?

Look at this author friend of mine - no one else reads as much as he does, no one else has the determination that he has, no one works as hard as he does, yet he cannot get it right. How bigger a calamity it will be, if the reading itself is absent?


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