Reading Is Bliss
I re-read Anne of Green Gables the other day. It was more a quick skim read than a leisurely thumbing of the pages, but it was enough to make me recall why I had loved the whole "Anne" series so much as a child
Nowadays, with the jaded eyes of an adult who has read it all (just kidding, no-one can read it all, but you get the idea), the book struck me as, well...immature. Was Anne always this preachy and annoying? Was Gilbert always this stultifyingly boring? As a kid, I had found Anne's quirks adorable, and imagined that we were "kindred spirits", especially as I too, was often admonished for talking rather than paying attention in class.
Gilbert, wonderful white knight Gilbert, whose love for the dreamy ginger girl proved that a woman's looks weren't everything - well, he did not stand up to the test of time. I found him sexist and quite frankly, a little too straitlaced and conservative for me.
I can be a fickle reader, and by that, I mean that I don't have a hell of a lot of patience for stories that don't grab my attention. I get that there are some books that are a slow burn, but if there isn't something that captures my interest in the first chapter or so - a character, an intriguing plot point, effervescent language...if it's missing that mystical, magical literary fairy dust - I'm gone, like a trophy wife the minute the divorce papers are signed.
That's why lately, I have thought that to save time and get through my goal of reading at least a book a week, I should perhaps read more than one book at a time. Now hear me out. I realise the idea is sacrilegious to many. For one, how do you keep the different stories straight in your head?
But I have a couple of reader friends who do it, and it doesn't seem to affect their enjoyment or understanding of a book. I will admit to being averse to the idea initially, in my younger and less ideologically flexible days. It was a bit too polygamous for my tastes - fine for others, but something I couldn't picture myself doing.
There are immediate advantages that I can see in being more free and easy with my reading favours. I'm no mathematician, but theoretically (at least in my own head), reading multiple storylines increases efficiency, so I can get reject more unsuitable books out of hand to get to the golden grail of the ones that I do want to read.
If I happen to come across two or more books that I love and want to keep on reading, then great! I can continue reading them, in tandem or individually, and have more to add to my growing to-read pile. Having a stockpile of books I know I want to read is the ultimate gift for a literary geek.
Out of all the literary confessions I've made on this blog, this one shames me the deepest: I sometimes skip to the back of the book and read the ending of a story before I've finished.
Argh! It's an awful thing for a reader to admit to. It feels a bit like cheating. I mean, one of the rewards of sticking with a book is being able to savour a rightfully-earned ending, right? And I would have never said anything, except that once, on a travel junket back when I was a real journalist, I saw someone else in the group do the same thing. I was completely amazed, to say the least - I had thought I was the only one, and would have to carry my dirty secret with me to the grave.
I skip to the end of books, not necessarily because I don't love the stories, but sometimes because I love the story so much that I can't wait to find out what happens next. After all, I can only read so fast, and I need to know NOW dammit. It's immediate gratification.
Other times, I might encounter something, usually a character or plot point that frustrates me so much I'm on the verge of giving up, and figure I might as well read the ending so the entire thing is not a wasted effort. As a positive, the ending might be so intriguing or mysterious that it prompts me to go back and pick up where I left off.
My lovely reader friend Rohani, who keeps up an amazing amount of reading considering that she's busy running around after two little ones and freelances at the same time, wrote a post a couple of years ago about being married to a non-reader.
Now I'm not married, nor am I dating a non-reader, but I have been in a serious relationship with one in the past and thought that enough time has passed for us to revisit this fascinating topic.
The non-reader in a relationship can, of course, be the wife or female partner - but as women tend to read for leisure more than men, and as I'm a heterosexual female, I can only speak from personal experience, though I'd dearly love to hear the opinions of others.
In my romantic relationships with non-readers, including the long term, serious, living-together, contemplating-marriage-and-babies one, I have noticed a general trend: the non-reader will start off all enthusiastic about wanting to read more, which as any serious reader knows, is the biggest aphrodisiac of all ("someone wants to hear me rant about books...ZOMG").
This will result in the non-reader being suddenly hit with giant flying lists of Every. Single. Book. In. The. World. The reader part of the couple being suddenly convinced that if they could just find that one perfect story, they can convert the non-reader and they will hold hands in bed while reading books/matching Kindles, gazing lovingly at each other every now and then across the pages. Real life, of course, is nothing like fiction (or Instagram).
Everywhere in New Zealand this week, talk has turned to the general election. All this palaver has given me the golden opportunity to talk about something related to both the current political climate and books - the surveillance state.
So in the spirit of the election tomorrow (don't forget to vote!), here are some insightful novels about surveillance/totalitarian regimes. Feel free to make your own recommendations below!
1984, George Orwell
Sales of this novel apparently skyrocketed in the wake of the NSA scandal - you know, when one Edward Snowden heroically gave up his freedom, probably for life, to expose mass surveillance and government deception. This is the grandfather of anti-surveillance books, the one that coined the term Big Brother and other fantastic, self-explanatory terms like: "thinkspeak", "newspeak" and "doublethink". It's a great book to read if you want to avoid being an "unperson".
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
In some ways, the broader brushstrokes of Atwood's story is similar to 1984, if it only applied to women, which seems scarily like a very real prospect for certain parts of the US (or NZ if the Conservative Party has its way). The tale of Offred, "of Fred" - geddit? - is a warning that we cannot get too complacent. How the surveillance state gets you is to erode your freedoms chip by chip; starting with something small, like perhaps a law change, which enables them to one day take over your bank accounts, your job and eventually your entire way of life.
Blog terms and conditions
You're welcome to post in the comments section of our blogs. Please keep comments under 400 words. When submitting a comment, you agree to be bound by our terms and conditions.