Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Reading Conundrum

Many years ago, when I was still in college, I went on a date with a young man my aunt set me up with. He was the son of one of her neighbors, and we mercifully only went to the movies. I say mercifully because it was painfully obvious within the first five minutes that it was going to be an awkward evening. He was a med student, if I remember correctly, and he mentioned that he never read fiction and didn't see the point in reading the same book more than once. At the time, I was double majoring in English (with an emphasis in creative writing) and French Literature, and I have never met a good book I won't read twice (or 17 times). Because if it's good once, the 32nd reading is bound to be twice as nice. Between the stilted conversation and the fact that we saw Patch Adams, one of the worst films of all time and therefore not particularly good fodder for conversation, it was possibly the most awkward evening ever spent in the history of human social interaction. (Okay, I exaggerate slightly. In the history of English-speaking human social interaction).

I bring this up because I have become fiction averse lately, and I'm worried that I'm becoming someone my 20 year-old-self would have trouble conversing with. For weeks, I've been wondering why I don't read anymore. As I put aside yet another finished library book yesterday, I realized that saying "I don't read anymore" is not exactly accurate. (And J, who notices the huge stacks of books I cart to and from the library on a bi-weekly basis has been wondering where the hell I got that idea from in the first place.) I don't read fiction anymore, but I've been gobbling up books of sociology, parenting, humor, psychology, politics and theory. Okay, so the reading bug is still alive and well. It's just become one that doesn't read fiction and doesn't read books more than once. Horrors!

This really worries me for LO. He's already growing up with a mechanical engineer father. What hope is there for him if his mother doesn't regularly run away into a good novel? He might develop social skills! Then where will we be?

LO and I read together regularly, and I've tried steering his preferences more toward fiction. So far, he's shown no interest whatsoever in Jane Eyre, but he quite likes Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Clearly, he's his father's child. But, at least Mike and the steam shovel are fictional. And so far, re-reading books to LO is like he's experiencing them for the first time again. There's hope yet!

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