Thursday, July 20, 2006

Guilty Pleasures: why do you like what you like?

Essayist, programmer and programming language designer Paul Graham has some interesting things to say about how creative people get their start imitating others - and how that often leads them astray. [Thanks to Alex Epstein for the heads-up on this link.] You can read the whole piece here, but the following extract concerns the nature of guilty pleasures:
Another way to figure out what you like is to look at what you enjoy as guilty pleasures. Many things people like, especially if they're young and ambitious, they like largely for the feeling of virtue in liking them. 99% of people reading Ulysses are thinking "I'm reading Ulysses" as they do it. A guilty pleasure is at least a pure one. What do you read when you don't feel up to being virtuous? What kind of book do you read and feel sad that there's only half of it left, instead of being impressed that you're half way through? That's what you really like.

So, what are your guilty pleasures? What kind of novels do you pick up for comfort reading? I know someone with the complete works of Dick Francis, who'll happily re-read them over and over again. Me, I'm addicted to John Irving's The World According to Garp, and All the President's Men by Woodward and Bernstein. Stephen King's On Writing lives in the bathroom. Among graphic novels I'll happy savour Watchmen anytime - but always skip over the Tales of the Black Freighter sequences.


Laura said...

I love my comfort reading. I have about 10 series of books that I visit every year or two that I just love. Not necessarily going to write all the high brow ones here :)

When I'm in the mood I can chain read Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels for weeks on end. The Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series have been read about a dozen times, as has the Lord of the Rings.

I get dreadfully involved in Jane Austen novels every time I pick one of them up. And then I have to watch all the TV/Film adaptations (roll on Andrew Davies's Sense and Sensibility).

James Moran said...

The Stainless Steel Rat books. Just can't go wrong with those.

But if you're after really cheesy, guilty pleasure in movie form, get the DVD of Road House. It's my way or the highway - Zen bouncer/fighter/man in pants Swayze takes on town, town says "ow my face". I will fight to the death in sweaty pants anyone who says Road House is anything other than a classic.