Taking back the Pleasure Read
My mother once said that ‘I practically came out of the womb with a book in my hands.’ And for the early part of my years, I could usually be found with a book (or two) that I was reading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Rory Gilmore. But I liked to read. If I didn’t have my book with me, the magazines at the doctor’s office, or on the coffee table in Dad’s office would do just fine.
I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High, I easily read past book 100 and then some. Then I got really into biographies – Amelia Earhart and then the Kennedys, mostly JFK, but a consistent stream of RFK also found it’s way in. That expanded into other presidents and prominent political figures. To date I still reference “The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964” as my favorite book, and often think about how it recounts LBJ and Lady Bird sitting in bed discussing whether or not he should run again.
In High School, while still an avid reader in the summers and a diligent doer of homework, I started to hate reading. Okay, hate is a strong word. But reading started to feel like work. And, I stopped enjoying it. I actively disliked parsing every word and phrase and discussing ad nauseam the symbolism of the upside down newspaper (if anyone knows where that’s from, please remind me? That’s always the example that pops to mind, and I have no idea if I made it up, or if its from some prominent work of literature.). I digress, but honestly, what if it wasn’t symbolism, what if it’s just the way the paper landed when the character tossed it on the table.
Then, “A Tale of Two Cities” nearly broke me. Honor Roll. National Honor Society. Hardly had to try for my grades (except in math), and this book nearly broke me. It was Freshman or Sophomore year… and I swear everyone else in the class was reading a different book. I sat in class trying to figure out what the hell everyone was talking about. I read and re-read the chapters and had no clue where I’d turned left, when I should have turned right. I considered getting a tutor, but how do you teach interpretation, without it being straight regurgitation? Finally, after weeks of being in the dark, I soldiered on and finished that book, and then in that final chapter were the words I’d been looking for the entire time. Suddenly it all mades sense.
And, no, I’m not going to share them. They made me understand. They are mine.
In college it was more of the same. Read this book, regurgitate exactly what your teachers tell you and you’ll get an A. This time it was Greek Mythology that took me out. I’d read pretty much everything on the syllabus in high school, so it should have been an easy A. Instead, my teacher was more obsessed with the Oedipus complex, than Oedipus. I straight up disagreed with 95% of what he was “teaching” us. When the mid-term rolled around, I answered his questions, but I couldn’t bring myself to serve up Oedipus on a platter for every question. So when that flimsy blue book came back to me I was expecting the F. I was not expecting the following, “You have no grasp of this material and you clearly don’t care to. Drop this class or you will fail.”
This professor was not the first person to experience my stubborn nature. And as the saying goes ‘opinions are like assholes, and everybody’s got one’ – and I’m not going to regurgitate yours. So, I dropped the class and enrolled in Summer Classes. And, the greatest summer of my life.
Since college, I’ve been trying to find the joy in books again. I still read, but not nearly as frequently as I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I read all of the “Fifty Shades” series in basically one sitting. And after refusing to get into Harry Potter, I read the entire series in a week. Binge-reading: The original Netflix.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to be part of a book club, but not the kind with the deep discussions and word parsing. I want to be part of the group, I want to read the trashy beach read with my friends, have a reason to get together to drink wine and gossip. I want to reclaim reading. I want to read whatever ridiculous thing strikes my fancy today.
I’m re-claiming the “Pleasure Read” for myself.
And if you want to join me, pass the rosé!