Quote for Readers

My mom emailed me a great quote a few days ago.

As readers, we remain in the nursery stage so long as we cannot distinguish between taste and judgment, so long, that is, as the only possible verdicts we can pass on a book are two: this I like; this I don’t like.

For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don’t like it; I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see that this is trash but I like it; I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.

-W. H. Auden, from A Certain World

I used to feel like I had to finish every book I started, no matter how much I disliked it.  Nowadays, with books in the 2nd and 5th categories according to Auden, I feel able to put the book down unfinished and walk away.


0 Replies to “Quote for Readers”

  1. Thank you for this, Anjali (and your mom)! It helps to clarify the angst I feel when asked whether or not I liked a book. There should be one more category: the social network b.s. category. Recently, an academic friend asked me to give his novel some stars on Goodreads. To quote, he said “You don’t have to read it or write a review, just give it some stars”. Needless to say, my happy reading balloon lost some air that day.

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