Yesterday at work (remember I work now at a bookstore), a young teen, about sixteen, asked me for the bookLord of the Flies by William Goldin. As I was searching for it in our system he proceeded to tell me that he had read it once and did not like it. I told him I had read the book when I was about his age and said I actually enjoyed it.
Before he let me finish explaining why, he responded by telling me that he knew it was a good book because it had a deeper meaning. For the next few seconds he attempted to detail to me that deeper meaning. Unfortunately I had a customer come up and interrupt our conversation so I was not able to let him know one important point I wanted to make.
Regardless of whether the book had what he thought was a “deeper meaning”, and despite the fact that I enjoyed it but he did not, these factors do not necessarily make the story good. On one level—the literary or technique of writing level, the story is, in fact, a good story. But I understood what he meant, he did not prefer that story because his tastes where of a different ilk. I wanted to explain to him that that was actually okay, not to get discouraged as a reader. Keep trying to find works that you enjoy, there are millions of books out there and certainly of those he could find plenty of stories he’ll end up enjoying—some with “deeper meanings.”
The thing that struck me about him was that he had a pretty good grasp of what Golding had written in Lord of the Flies, and in my experience this is rare for sixteen year old boys. Most sixteen year old boys don’t give a rat’s ass about Golding, his stories, or whether they understand them or not. I was afraid he mistook my comment that I enjoyed Lord of the Flies as a message that because I enjoyed it, he must enjoy it too. That was certainly not my intent. I hope he continues to read.