Thinking critically about what we read is important, but can we do ourselves (and our enjoyment) a disservice by thinking too much? It’s a question that picks at me quite often, particularly this year. I thought getting it on paper would point me toward answers, but all I seem to have are more questions. Maybe we can wade through them together.
Last week I finished reading Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss and, while I loved the novel at the start, my focus on a particular aspect of the book started to shift my opinion about halfway through. One of the main characters has synesthesia, which allows a person to experience multiple senses in connection with one another (sounds as colors, hearing words as tastes, etc). I’m by no means an expert on synesthesia, but I am familiar and was frustrated by the seemingly unrealistic way it was used to move the novel’s plot. My reaction is somewhat irrational, since synesthesia is a phenomenon and can vary in ways that researchers still haven’t identified, but I’ve never heard of the condition simply disappearing and reappearing the way it does in the book, even when I looked for examples. As much as I still enjoyed the writing, it was very hard for me to feel engaged with the novel from that point on.
I want to question what I read and make sure I’m not taking everything at face value, but I also want to enjoy (at least some of) what I’m reading. Where’s the balance? As a reader, is it my responsibility to give my brain some chill and learn to move on after going into critical thinking mode? Or should I expect books to be good enough that these distractions are just bumps in the road? I know I’ve had reading experiences where bits and pieces made me stop and reassess, but I was riveted enough to keep reading and enjoying. I just wish I knew if it was my own mindset or the book itself that pushed me along.