I used to be a book worm. I weaved my squirmy little adolescent self through oodles and oodles of books – my dad can attest to the piles I would check out of the library when I was little. Standing behind a careening tower half as high as myself, as I waited for the librarian to scan them with her little magnetic strip. I’d just devour them when I got home from school – along with fold-over peanut butter sandwiches (the hungriest time of the day!). Anything and everything from Babysitter’s Club to Carol Matas stories about kids who lived through the Second World War (which consequently gave me an irrational fear that one day they’d be after all the red-heads in North America) to the witch trials in Salem. They had it, I read it.
And then one day it dried up.
When you’re a teenager they expect you to read “grown up things” that I wasn’t ready for… I was never excited about Shakespeare or Mordacai Richler and I definitely didn’t like Catcher in the Rye (I actually still don’t), but I made believe because it’s what any self-respecting teenage “book-worm” does. And because I was a strong writer and I got the “jest” of symbolism I was able to act the part. So against my better judgement I left high-school, headed to University for a degree in English Literature, doing what it seemed I was good at.
It lasted two years of painful lectures on "the hidden meaning" and english that didn't even qualify as English (Chaucer obviously... So what if he's "the founder of English literature..." Right ;) ) before I made the switch to social sciences – and that’s where, thank-fully, I found my home. This isn't to say it was all bad, but rather that I largely felt out of place amongst people who actually embraced and appreciated the subject on a different level I will never understand).
All this to say, my relationship with books is marred by a past of Great Expectations (see what I did there?!), not unlike many other elements of my young adult life which I feel like I went through unquestioning, doing what was the convention (self-imposed of course). I don’t know where I picked up this idea that being able to finish Anna Karenina actually helps define your worth.
Sometimes I still suffer guilt when I read for “pleasure” – like I’m not holding up the expectation that I should be reading dense works by Joyce or March. There are days when I can pull off a classic – I mean for instance I love the Bronté sisters, but probably never in my life will I enjoy Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Slowly, slowly since the world of academia and scholarly articles has been receding from my vision in the rear view, I’ve been piecing together a new relationship with the written word. One in which I still love children’s literature. One in which my time reading is my time. You know when it takes you 15 tries to really “get into” a book? And some people tell you – “no you really must push through that to get to the good part of it.” I give it one go – two chances maximum – and if it doesn’t stick, I’m ok with that. I mean let’s be real here, if I’m headed to bed, these days it’s got to be good if it’s going to keep me awake after a page.
I was thinking about it and I think that’s why I’m always hesitant to do a "what I'm reading now" type of post. Fear of book judgement. Seriously? That cant be a "thing" can it? It’s almost laughable when I read it out loud.
So in case you were curious, right now I’m reading: Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahanlan but I've got a lot to say about that on it's own so I think it's best left for another day.