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I Don’t Give a D***

I’ve wanted to put this nagging thing on my mind into words for so long and blog it up here but found myself not having the heart to do it. Now, I’ll be doing it for a thousand words or so. Watch out, you may not like it.

People have favorite writers, so do I. But most of the time they have “favorite people” whose works they just happen to read, or love to read. These “favorite people” have some favorable qualities or likable personalities that make readers adore them even more than their works. These qualities/personalities can be certain charming characters (inspiring, wise, sympathetic, or simply having a heart of gold), or they can be their sex/gender (“I read this book because the author is a woman” doesn’t seem to be a rare expression these days). I’m not accusing people of not having literary taste or something, but sometimes you just can’t help it, can you? Because when you think the books these “favorite people” produce are so great and inspiring you will go to the bookstore and spend what little money you have to buy them and read them enthusiastically till midnight, but when you finally discover that these “favorite people” are a******* (or that they use pseudonyms and are actually not the person you think they are) you will have a doubt and eventually stop reading their books no matter how marvelous they are. You may think that I’m merely talking nonsense here, but I was, and am, a witness to this nonsense.

Years ago, at least that I remember, a best-selling author had just released the English edition of his book under a huge literary publisher in the United States. After quite some time, a blogger put his doubts on his blog over the nature of the release, saying loud and clear that actually the book was published by a small press and not a big player. He also severely criticized the many changes occured in the translated version, pointing out that the US edition might have not been translated from the original manuscript but was merely an adaptation. The author went mad at the “accusation”, and at the blogger, too, of course, and called his lawyer straight away to sue said blogger. It blew up and went viral on the Internet. Everyone on Twitter were condemning him mercilessly and ceaselessly, calling him arrogant and some other names and swore to God that they would never, ever again read his books. I remember feeling disappointed. I understood that it was not the best attitude of an author, but I have to say that it was not the best attitude of a reader, either. People left him, but I stayed. I stayed for the sake of his work. I stayed because I knew he was not the only one to make such a horrible mistake, or the only one to try keeping a good image but failed. I stayed because I knew being a writer in the book industry is a complicated thing. Really, sometimes I wonder what people’s reactions will be if the gossip that J.K. Rowling is actually not J.K. Rowling is true. Will they leave her and promise to never read her books anymore? And what about those senior male writers they said always trying to get into young female writers’ pants? If this rumor proves to be true, and we find out who those male writers are, will we leave them, too?

Writers are not gods, they make mistakes and they sin. If you look at what they are more than you do what they write, you’ll only tear your heart apart because all human beings are sinful, we are all sinful. So I don’t think we should read books for the authors’ “outer” image, or for their sex/gender, for that matter. I know the campaign to read more female writers today is all about making balance in the book industry, since the literary world has been indeed ruled by men for so very long. I am a woman and I can understand the need to do so. But I don’t want to be a gender-bound reader. I want to read a book only if it’s worth reading. What if a book, written by a female writer, is badly written? People hail women writers but they diss E.L. James, and every romance writer there is in the book industry, for they think romances they produce are a bunch of crap. If you really think you should read more female writers, then you should read E.L. James, not despising her on every article you write. So, I do think we should appreciate writers more for their capabilities than their sex/gender, if this is truly about “gender equality”.

You may think I’ve gone out of my mind, but it’s just not in my nature to judge a book by its author. I don’t care if it’s a he or a she, and I absolutely don’t care if he/she is a complete a****** or a wiseguy giving you some spiritual enlightenment on social media. Most of my favorite writers are men and one of them (yes, that best-selling author) was damned by almost the entire readership for his incapability to put his arrogance in the right place. From what I read on online newspapers and literary magazines, I could tell that Orhan Pamuk is not a charming person, but I love his books because they can equally reflect the social/cultural issues in my country; and I do not adore Sapardi Djoko Damono because we share the same cultural background (as Javanese people coming originally from Solo) but because we share the same opinion about everything and anything and have the same sense of humor, too, as reflected in his fiction works. I like Isabel Allende not because she is a woman, but because her Tripartite are a bunch of masterpieces and could really speak to me. In short, I don’t give a d***. For me it’s their works that matter, not their personalities. They can go to hell for whatever reason and I will still read their books if those books are truly great and inspiring. As E.M. Forster put it, “I am more interested in works than authors.”

I realize that it’s totally pointless to address this issue on my blog. But I just want people to know. Well, whoever those who actually read my blog. And I do not wish for anything, for I know everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. And this is mine.

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Membaca: Jalan Menuju Roma

[BBI – Posting Bareng Juni 2016]

pic-posbar-juniSaya tidak pernah bepergian ke mana-mana. Saya memang pernah pergi ke luar kota, kadang-kadang, untuk urusan keluarga atau sekadar jalan-jalan. Tapi itu dulu. Rasanya sudah lama sekali saya tidak meninggalkan kota tempat saya tinggal ini. Setiap kali ada teman yang berkesempatan untuk pergi ke luar negeri (entah untuk melanjutkan sekolah, bekerja, atau hanya berwisata), saya jadi iri setengah mati. Sejak dulu cita-cita saya adalah menginjakkan kaki di tanah asing, di tempat-tempat yang hanya bisa saya lihat di televisi atau di lini masa Twitter. Saya sangat ingin pergi dari sini, tapi apa daya? Mungkin Tuhan tidak (atau belum?) mengizinkan. Maka dari itu saya sering menjuluki diri saya sendiri manusia gua.

Lalu, apa hubungan semua itu dengan pengakuan saya sebagai seorang pembaca? Ada, dan kaitannya sangat erat. Harus saya akui di sini bahwa sebenarnya, saya tidak suka membaca. Ini jujur sejujur-jujurnya. Daripada membaca saya lebih suka mendengarkan musik, atau menonton film. Lagi pula, sejak kecil saya lebih suka menulis daripada membaca. Saya sangat cinta menulis. Entah ada apa pada kegiatan menulis yang membuat saya sangat tertarik dan dapat merasa terserap ke dalamnya. Pokoknya saya amat sangat suka menulis sekali. Entah itu puisi, cerpen, novel, buku harian, atau sekadar resensi buku. Isi pikiran saya yang tidak pernah tenang ini selalu menuntut untuk dikeluarkan dalam bentuk tulisan. Itu saja intinya.

Sampai suatu saat saya menyadari bahwa tanpa membaca, saya tidak akan menjadi orang yang pintar. Ya, saya memang selalu bilang kalau saya mulai “senang” membaca sejak duduk di bangku SMA. Tapi pada saat itu saya hanya menganggap membaca sebagai “alat” untuk mendekatkan diri saya dengan dunia menulis. Tidak lebih. Dan kebetulan novel-novel yang saya baca waktu itu sangat relevan dengan kegalauan remaja saya ^_^. Yang menyadarkan saya, benar-benar menyadarkan saya, adalah ketika saya mulai kuliah. Di universitas, saya melihat dunia yang lebih besar, ilmu yang lebih banyak, dan orang-orang yang jauh lebih pintar dan berpengetahuan lebih luas daripada saya. Lama-kelamaan saya jadi minder: merasa bahwa diri ini bodoh sekali. Saya ingin jadi seperti mereka, karena saya tahu bahwa ada satu bagian dalam diri saya yang berambisi untuk menjadi pintar. Dan saya tahu, membaca adalah jalan utamanya. Kemudian saya pun mulai suka ke perpustakaan, memaksakan diri membaca koran (walaupun hanya beberapa rubrik), dan sering menyewa buku di persewaan buku/komik di belakang kampus saya (bagi yang satu alma mater dengan saya, pasti tahu di mana letak persewaan itu dulu). Intinya, saya menggenjot diri saya untuk lebih banyak membaca.

Nah, semakin kemari, saya jadi semakin sadar bahwa saya sudah tertinggal jauh. Sejak bergabung dengan komunitas GRI dan BBI, saya jadi “melek” bahwa ternyata bacaan orang lain sudah luar biasa banyaknya. Saya ini bisa dibilang hanya termasuk kelas teri. Saya jadi merasa ciut. Apalagi setelah berkenalan dengan blogger-blogger luar, yang bagi mereka membaca buku sudah seperti makan nasi bagi kita. Saya jadi semakin ciut, makin merasa bodoh. Tetapi segi positifnya adalah, semakin bodoh saya merasa, semakin getol saya membaca.

Hubungannya dengan pembukaan saya tadi? Nah, walaupun bacaan saya masih sangat sedikit (disebabkan akses yang masih agak sulit, daya baca saya yang masih lemah alias tidak bisa membaca lama-lama maupun cepat, dan kesibukan yang kadang-kadang membuat saya tidak sempat membaca sama sekali), manfaatnya sudah mulai terasa. Saya jadi tahu lebih banyak hal, “melihat” lebih banyak tempat. Jika ada yang bilang kalau membaca buku sama dengan bepergian ke mana-mana, saya setuju sekali. Dengan membaca, saya yang manusia gua ini serasa seperti berkunjung ke tempat-tempat di luar sana tanpa harus meninggalkan gua tempat saya tinggal. Dengan membaca, saya jadi tahu tentang budaya lain, watak masyarakat lain, dan sudut pandang orang lain. Dengan membaca, saya jadi “mengenal” negara-negara lain seperti Jepang, China, Britania Raya, Amerika, India, Italia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chile dan Turki, negeri impian saya. Hanya dengan membaca Istanbul, memoarnya Orhan Pamuk, saya merasa seperti sudah pernah ke sana (walaupun tetap, impian saya adalah benar-benar pergi ke sana). Intinya, dengan membaca saya jadi tahu lebih banyak dan melihat lebih banyak. Saya mungkin masih tetap manusia gua, tapi paling tidak sudah bukan katak dalam tempurung.

Jadi, inilah pengakuan saya: saya tidak suka membaca, tapi saya butuh membaca. Saya menggemari kegiatan membaca karena saya ingin keluar dari batas-batas gua tempat tinggal saya. Saya gemar membaca karena saya ingin pintar, ingin tahu banyak hal dan menjadi seseorang yang lebih baik. Saya gemar membaca karena saya tahu, membaca adalah satu-satunya jalan saya menuju Roma.

Banner Posbar 2016 kecilNote: Artikel ini diunggah sebagai bagian dari posbar #BBIBookishConfession Bulan Juni 2016.