Anything complicated or sophisticated or philosophical has a hard time convincing certain readers (a large number, in fact) that they should continue to read on.
Many in the contemporary readership read not to learn something or to be challenged; instead, they read for escapism in a reductive kind of way (In it’s higher aspect, ‘reading for escapism’ has many positive qualities.). There are plenty of reviews that indicate this; and they have a certain anti-intellectualism running through their words.
Looping while reading is too much to ask
If I can risk saying it … if a book is too complicated and demanding/challenging, those with a lower level of intelligence and education will need to read sentences and paragraphs several times in order to understand them. Hell, those with a high intelligence and education may also need to… But the difference in the way that this is interpreted and positioned is huge…
Moreover, if the book is of a level that’s too high for a particular reader, they will be unlikely to grasp in any clear detail the specifics of the world being represented … unless they spend extra time on trying to untangling the ambiguities, etc. For many readers, this will obviously cause problems and reduce the satisfaction you could get from reading. Who wants to read an impenetrable text, right?
People who read for escapism just want to get lost in the prose; this seems fair enough, and it’s certainly what many authors aspire to achieve, but what this generally means is that fiction needs to be written at the year 8 or 9 level (or there abouts).
What does it mean for highbrow SF … or highbrow literary fiction, etc., for that matter?
It leaves the margins…
If a reader needs to read something again … and again, many are likely to resent it and eventually blame the writer for it. An intolerance for this can be at a very low threshold.
In contrast, those who have university educations, for example, are a lot more tolerant of such looping qualities in their reading and understanding development as they had to read complicated texts in order to have any hope of graduating. Those who gained something valuable from it along the way understand the benefits involved and continue to seek it out … at least on occasions. Some even enjoy it in their fiction.
There are obviosuly many autodidacts and smart people without degrees who can do the same thing and come to the same conclusion about being challenged while reading. In the end, it’s about orientation and everything that creates that…
But try and convince those who just want to read in a linear manner of that there’s a benefit in there for them to loop back and read a sentence, paragraph or passage again (and again) in a serious attempt to understand it.
Often that will fall on deaf ears.
This is also kind of interesting as so much of the way we read online is often non-linear oriented. This same kind of reading style doesn’t seem to have moved into fiction in a corresponding manner … fr a large number of readers. Perhaps, there’s even a backlash against it; fiction could be one of hte last remaining ’safe places’ in which clean linear reading can be found. And that needs to be defended.
Instead of intellectual honesty among readers, you’ll here statements like the following: “Large chunks had to be skipped over because they were unreadable.” ‘Unreadable’ is evidently key there.
The online mega-bookstores seem to be supporting this kind of reader more and more.
The problem is giving them such open opportunities to make themselves heard and have such a great influence, etc…