Reading – Part One – Resurgence In Reading Fiction. Huh! Did It Ever Go Away?

Posted on Thu 05/05/2022 by

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By Anton Lang ~

Sometimes, life’s little pleasures go mostly unrecognised for the real pleasure that they do give, until three or four related things coalesce at around the same time, and you wonder about the supposed coincidence of it, and from that, you then think a little more in depth about it, enough to want to write something about it, if only to put all those thoughts together. Then you find that the writing about it gives you pleasure as well, because it makes you think even more deeply about it. That’s what happened with me in the last ten days or so.

I wrote in my bio (at this link) that one of my interests is reading, and three things happened in these last ten days or so that confirm just why I like reading so much.

The Cover of the Mandarin published Michener novel.

The first was that I finally finished reading (for a second time) James A Michener’s longest novel, Texas. It’s  long all right. 1310 pages of print that is only half the size of normal printed novels. It took me a while to read it, around  fourteen weeks in all, so that makes around 13 or so pages a day, and while that might not seem much, the print was very small, as I mentioned, so those 13 pages of fine print translate to around 30 pages of a normal novel, and that’s about the pace I usually read at, as I only read for the 40 minutes or so each night in bed, before I go off to sleep, sometimes a little more, or less.

I’ll have more to write about Michener in general later on, but there were so many surprises as I read this novel for that second time. The first time I did read this novel was during 1998, so it was twenty four years ago. The major surprise was that, having read it before, I had the idea that I would remember what was coming and what it was all about. However, I found that there was nothing at all I remembered from that first reading, and it was like reading it for the first time. The next thing I noticed was that not long after I started reading the novel, I noticed a story of how the current Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has set up what is called The 1836 Project Advisory Committee, to trace and document the history of the State.

(That year 1836 is important in Texas because in that year, there was Battle of the Alamo, the massacre at Goliad, and the Battle of San Jacinto, all in the year Texas declared its Independence, and all of them written about in the Michener novel, as he structured his fictional novel around actual events which he detailed comprehensively.)

I was first made aware of this current 1836 Project in an article from The Daily Signal, an article we also posted at our own site here, at this link. Now why this article and the novel are linked is this is exactly the scenario that Michener used in his novel, in which the present time  setting was 1985, around the time Michener wrote this novel, and the current (1985) Governor in his fiction novel sets up a Committee to investigate and document the history of the State, and while the novel deals with many aspects of Texas History in each of its fourteen chapters, each chapter closes with ten pages or so set in the ‘present’ with the Governor’s Committee. The next thing about the novel I noticed was how the situation now in 2022 so very closely resembles some situations in the novel, and on a number of occasions. How, as far back as the late 1890s early 1900s, there were distinct instances of voter fraud, and here, in this fictional novel, most of those situations concerned Democrats turning up at Midnight with just enough votes required to turn the election in favour of the Democrat candidate. (Huh! Sound familiar?) How those Democrat apparatchiks also used illegal Mexican voters smuggled across the border to vote for the Democrat Candidate. Then there was the border crisis of many thousands of illegal immigrants crossing the border into the United States, and this dates back also to the same time of the early 1900s, and continuing in an ever increasing manner to the time setting in the novels present time setting of 1985. There was also the case of expectant mothers being smuggled over the Border close to the time of birth of their child, and how the U.S. hospitals in Texas would not turn away a mother so close to giving birth as she would have been at this time. The baby was then a registered U.S. born citizen. The Mother and her baby were then both taken straight back across the border, however, now in possession of the precious Birth Certificate, indicating the child as a U.S. born citizen. However, once the child turned 18, that child then lawfully crossed the border as a U.S. citizen, and once settled, using the family reunion clause, could then bring members of their extended family also lawfully into the U.S.

Now, there is the case that when I first read the novel back in 1998 that these specific things might not have meant all that much to me, as this was so long before I started contributing here at this site, and now these exact situations are front of mind in our time here in 2022. There were other things in the novel as well that are current right now as well, and that’s why the novel was such a revelation. Now I mentioned above that this Michener novel was his longest, and Michener was renowned as a very thorough researcher for all his novels, and this was the case here, as it was mentioned by reviewers of the novel that he did more research for this novel than for any of his other novels, and that is shown right at the start of this novel, where he details that research, with 33 separate areas of research, detailed in depth over eight pages.  The novel is one I so thoroughly enjoyed for so many reasons, most of them revelatory, and I would recommend this novel to anyone wanting to read it, but be careful, as it will take you months to read the fine print spread across 1310 pages, and almost 140,000 plus words.

The second thing which happened during this time was one story in a News Report on our local radio station, which plays in the background in the Lounge room, while I sit here in another room at my computer. That local radio station has major news bulletins every hour on the hour, but on weekdays, they have local news at the half hour mark four times a day, and these shorter bulletins just mention local stories from our local area, The Gold Coast, here in Queensland, Australia. One of those stories was about how there seems to be a resurgence in reading. Now, in recent times, a lot of books have gone online, or have become available to the new tech electronic readers. However, this story actually said that there was a recent survey of Gold Coast book stores and there had been a pretty significant percentage rise in the sales of fiction novels. Okay, you think of this as a local area and there might not be all that many bookstores, but the Gold Coast is Australia’s sixth largest city, and when I checked, there are around fifty or more bookshops in this area, so this is a considerable number of book stores covered in this report. Anecdotal reports from some of those book store owners said that it was mostly younger people who were buying up fiction novels. It would seem that during these times of ‘Coronavirus’ we are now in, that people are not just exhausting everything on offer at the many (many) TV Streaming Services, they are now actually reading, and realising just how pleasurable it really is, and that is something we were told years ago was a fast disappearing thing, the fact of people actually purchasing (and then reading) fiction ….. on the printed page. Upon hearing the article on the news bulletin, I went online and found that it’s not an isolated thing, but is happening on a State wide basis here in Queensland and also Nationally, across the whole of Australia as well, and it actually is a relatively large spike in sales of fiction across the board at book stores. It would seem that the meme from years ago now that reading printed books on the printed page is slowly fading away to nothing at all, but now it seems reading fiction is indeed making a comeback.

The third thing that happened during this time was that our granddaughter was visiting for a week from Rockhampton, four hundred miles North of here. We spent eight years in Rockhampton and were there as she grew from childhood to the assured 19 year old when we left four years ago now, and my good lady wife and I are very close to her, so it was nice to see her. She was in the room where I sit at the computer and looking at the packed bookcase on the wall nearby. That puzzled me a little, as she had never shown the slightest interest in my books at any time prior to this. She asked what I was reading now. I have two novels in my bedside table waiting to be read, and (as I mentioned above) I pointed to the Michener I had just finished, all 1300 plus pages of it. She noticed some crime fiction novels I have, the Val McDermid and Michael Connelly novels, and specifically mentioned crime fiction. That also puzzled me a little, the fact that she actually knew some crime fiction authors, as I knew that she was never one for reading, and she told me that just in the last year, she had started reading, and crime fiction was currently her favourite genre. This surprised me me somewhat, and added credence to the story I heard about how sales of fiction novels have increased. I asked her if it was just her, and she told me that her friends were also reading, and that it was becoming something that more and more of her friends are doing. They still ‘live’ on their mobile phones, and on social media, but now it seems, they are bucking the old trend we heard about and are now actually reading books, and using facebook primarily to spread the word around on what each of them is currently reading.

Then, a week later, I was in our local Council Library here in Beenleigh, getting something for my good lady wife to read. On the off chance, I looked at the alphabetical section with authors starting with the letter M, and I could not find even one novel by James A Michener. I asked one of the attendants sitting in front of a computer in the centre of the Library, and she told me there was no call for his novels these days, and the last one she remembered was a battered copy of his novel, Hawaii, and she said that was a couple of years back now. I then asked if there had been an increase in books being signed out, and without any prompting, she told me that there had indeed been a spike in the last nine Months to a Year or so of people signing up for a Library Card to draw books out, and that far and away, (her words) the largest increase in numbers were for young adult women aged between 18 and 25. When I asked what they were reading, she told me ….. Crime Fiction, and that they just could not get enough of them, and that this was probably now one of the longest running surges in that genre that she had noticed.

Huh! Who would have thought, eh!

All of these things made me think about my own journey with reading, and that I would like to write about it, and something that started out as perhaps just one Post maybe, has now morphed into a series of Posts on the subject.

These are the links to the following four Parts in this Series, and as each Post appears here at our site every second day or so, I’ll add the link to the list below, so all the Posts are in this one place.

*****

Part Two – The Formative Years (The early years of my reading experience up until the late 1970s’)

Part Three – The Mid Life Reawakening

Part Four – The Upfield Revelation

Part Five – The Michener Conundrum

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.