Sage advice from a character in Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood (Vintage, 2003):
[Nagasawa] was a far more voracious reader than me, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years. “That’s the only kind of book I can trust,” he said.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in contemporary literature,” he added, “but I don’t want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short…
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That’s the world of hicks and slobs.”
I get the feeling that Murakami may have been unpopular at school.
He makes an exception, this Nagasawa, for The Great Gatsby, whose author, at the time at which this conversation takes place in the book, has been dead for only twenty-eight years. Nagasawa’s response: “So what? Two years? Fitzgerald’s advanced.”