Tuesday, June 16, 2009

While we're on the subject of things I love:

Something I’ve really had a bit of an epiphany about lately…

I’ve never been what most people would call a “good” reader. I read. I read a lot. I can burn through websites and all of their drivelly content like crazy. I read a lot. But I am hard pressed to pick up a book and sit there in a comfy chair and reeeeead. I don't hate doing it, and once I get into the story I like doing it even more. I just have a hard time DOING it. Because I guess it always feels like I’m DOING it. Reading is something I have to sit there, focus on and DO. Normally, as was proven in all 4 years in college, lengthy periods of reading result in my untimely collapse into sleep. Reading puts me plumb asleep. I love movies, as you can tell. I love TV and sitcoms and very most especially the PBS documentaries with narrators like Sigourney Weaver or David Attenborough. But I don’t like reading books. They make me sleep.

Worse, if I get into the story and don’t fall asleep I find that I must eventually put the book down and go do something else. That starts the cycle again – because while the reading was fine and I was into the plot or whatever, to finish the book I will have to sit down, focus in, pick up where I left off, and get all into it all over again. Always with the prospect of falling asleep hanging over me.

I’m just not a good reader. I’m not a fast reader. I’m not a very mindful reader – and I can easily get distracted by the particular shape of a letter “e” on the page. Or the bubbliness of the paper and how the ink manages to fall into the crevices between the fibers. Or how the book smells. Or how the muscles in my hand are getting twitchy from holding the stupid book open. Or how to perfectly hold my hand so that I can read without having to move my thumb. Or the shapes made by the spaces between the words and how that specific font either accentuates them or glosses them over. Or how the particular air current in the room slides off the page and swirls down my wrist. Or how the paper sounds when I turn the page. Or where the numbers on the pages go and if they match up exactly with the numbers on the next page. And so on…

But let’s get back to my epiphany.

I’m not a good reader. But I love stories. I will sit in a car and listen to a story for hours. I can sit there and flip it on and just fall into it as easily as anything. I can walk away from it at a moment’s notice and drop right back in at the slightest whim. I love HEARING a story and mostly I love being TOLD a good story. By a good storyteller: Garrison Keillor, Magnus Magnusson, Stephen Fry. I have discovered books on tape, gentle reader, and lo! My joy is unending!

For the first time in my life I am enthusiastically consuming multiple stories at once. One, a silly, piratey romance novel and the other a very matter of fact self help thingy about being a grownup and getting another degree. The second one is pretty dry and I do find that I tune it out easily… but this books on tape thing, more accurately books on CD, has made me reconsider my decision to write off works like “Atlas Shrugged” and “IT” and “Heart of Darkness” or anything ever written by Jane Austin.

Seriously… I’m storming that little library of ours and just bursting with pride like I just learned to read or something. It feels like somehow these horribly school-y and tedious pieces of drudgery are finally unlocked and I can breeze in and out of them at will like a normal person and by the GODS it feels so damned good to feel so demonstrably like a normal person for once.

I love a story. I love being TOLD a good story. I love hearing it and holding it in my ears and just really relishing the sounds and the pace and the progression of it.

That’s my epiphany. I’ve always felt bad about books – but no more. I’m just a hear-er. Not a reader. All this time I was using the wrong interface. Somewhere in the next world my ancestors are sagely nodding their heads and saying “Ahh. Good. This one still likes her sagas.”
And they’re right.

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