Last night I finished reading "Exit A" by Anthony Swofford. I had decided a while ago that I didn't like it, but it wasn't so bad that I had to put it down, so I stuck with it to the end. It wasn't a bad book, it was just poor in places, and disappointing overall.
I did prefer the act of reading the book to the book itself though. I have just read 10 or 20 draw-droppingly good books in a row. The previous book was "Disgrace" by J. M. Coetzee, which is stunning. Read it. I was beginning to think that I just possibly enjoyed most books a lot. Reading a book I didn't enjoy showed me that I just read a lot of good books.
I saw this one as a new release in a bookshop, and it had a piece of card with it, written by one of the members of staff in the shop. The card said something like "Swofford could have been forgiven for writing a poor second book, but he doesn't need to be, he can really write." I agree for the most part, he certainly could have been forgiven, and this book isn't bad enough that he really needs to be. It however not a great book, unlike "Jarhead", which I haven't changed my opinion on.
It wasn't just the act of reading a mediocre book that buoyed my spirits though. I wanted to like the book, so it wasn't just that it's not a famous classic like "Disgrace", so I'm not that much of a book snob. Also, it was really the card that caused me to buy it, even though I was drawn by the author's name, so it shows that my instincts are good, which gives me confidence when choosing books in the future.
The final aspect is the one that makes me happiest though. I know why it's not a great book. I can point to places in the book and tell you why they are bad. At school I was terrible in English classes, I didn't understand the first thing. Reading this book gave me confidence that I am learning while reading. Not only learning about life and the world, which I was already concious of, but also learning about language and writing. Even though I'd never be able to write like I would like to, I can at least comfort myself with the knowledge that I am at least able to partly understand the mechanics of good writing.