Volume 95, Issue 35

Friday, November 2, 2001
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Adams does it solely for his Love of Reading

London's Ten Heads: definitely not geniuses

Exploring the hardcore Sector

Gazette Comics

Adams does it solely for his Love of Reading

By Molly Duignan
Gazette Staff

"Kafka said: 'if reading a book doesn't hit you like a blow to the skull and free the frozen sea within you, what's the point of reading it?'"

Author Robert Adams quotes famous authors easier than most people can complete a sentence. He arrives in London this Monday to read from his collection of contemporary fiction reviews called, A Love of Reading.

Robert Adams knows books and, after 36 years of teaching, Adams often describes himself as retired.

"I review a book [every] month in my series. At the end of my year, I look at all the books I've read that I've set aside and try to choose five. Books that touched me, moved me or made me laugh; books that touched my emotions or books that caused me to think about some new perception of the human condition," he explains.

"I'm not really retired at all," he laughs, as five times yearly, he reviews books in Montreal and Toronto on stage before thousands of subscribers to his series.

Adams reviews novels, which he defines as "[works] of prose-fiction of significant length following a complex and believable world." And for a man who reads books professionally, naming a favourite is nearly impossible.

"My favourite novels are satires looking at the compromises an individual makes in order to cope with a hostile world," he says.

"If I had to choose a book that has affected me profoundly over the last couple years, I would probably choose Rohinton Mistry's second novel, A Fine Balance. I thought it was truly remarkable."

A Love of Reading covers what Adams thinks is a cross-section of literature – an anthology of reviews that covers a whole range of subject matter and cultural origins.

"I tried to pick out lectures that would play off each other a little bit. If you think about [these lectures], you would arrive at what I see as a good novel," he says.

"[Other anthologies] are rather specialized. They really cater to someone doing undergraduate or graduate courses at university or someone who has spent a lifetime narrowing their interests.

"My talks are designed for people who need not take tremendous academic preparation. I think I give the reaction to an important novel of a well-informed person who has read a great deal and who believes that novel is of particular value," Adams says.

Adams can determine if a novel is valuable after the first 10 pages. "If I go past the first 10 pages, I'll finish the book. Sometimes, in the first few pages, I think, 'aw jeez, why did anyone bother?' That doesn't happen too often though – I choose carefully."

Adams pays attention to top literary awards, including the Booker List, the Governor General list and the Pulitzer book lists, when deciding what books to read. "I have a lot of friends whose opinions I respect and I take their advice too," he says.

While Adams is obviously an advocate of reading, he notices a positive increase in books being read and sold internationally.

"More books are being written than were ever written before; more books are being sold than were ever sold before. People are reading. In spite of the Internet and computers and everything that people were frightened of, more people are reading books than ever in human history. That is a very good thing," he proclaims.

Adams' lectures allow "expert" and audience to match wits and compare notes. "People want to see where we differ and how our perception of the author's vision of existence differs," he says.

"I feel passionately about literature and when I talk about a book, when I read a book, I give myself to the book."

Robert Adams will speak at the McManus Studio Theatre (Grand Theatre lower level) Monday at 7p.m.. Admission is free.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001