Friday, November 7, 2008

A Teacher's Confession

Please don't tell anyone, but I have a confession to make. I'm not a very good reader. It's true. I faked my way through most books in high school and college. It's easy if you know where to go. I abandon about 80% of the adult books I try to read. Perhaps it's because I'm a slow reader - trying to fully absorb every word before moving on to the next sentence. Perhaps it's because I have a short attention span - long, dramatic storylines with intricate symbolisms and social undertones bore the heck out of me! Most of the "must reads" that I inherit from friends (i.e. The Time Traveller's Wife and The Secret Life of Bees) just pile up on my bedside. I'm lucky to read more than a chapter or two before tossing them aside and picking up something else.

I do love Children's books, though. Recently I've rediscovered the amazing talent of Natalie Babbit in Tuck Everlasting. I always marvel at the craftiness of Cynthia Rylant and Eve Bunting in their numerous picture books. I've also fallen in love with Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed, which I firmly believe every adult should read. In fact, my list of kid's books that should be read by adults is quite extensive. But when I stand in front of the best-seller table at Barnes and Noble, I feel desperately inadequate.

Having made my confession, I would also like you to know that every once in a blue moon I stumble upon an adult book that I can't put down. The first one was The Awakening which will always be my all-time favorite word feast. There have been others, on occasion. At the moment, I find myself sitting home on a Friday night, husband asleep on the couch, third glass of wine in hand, praying for the clock to slow down so I can keep reading my book without being completely exhausted tomorrow. It's an unlikely book for me to love. I've tried reading this author before and found him very uninteresting. However, tonight I am glued to the pages of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's strange and it's slow - it took me a few weeks to really get into it. But I just started the "Third Book" and I have to tell you, I'm completely enthralled with his style of writing. I know I'm in the middle of a good book when I picture the author at their desk, spewing out words onto paper or screen, ideas swirling around their head. I find myself in awe of his talent. How does he know all of this history? How does he put the pieces of this story together out of thin air? What an amazing writer he must be. I would love to sit down and talk to him sometime!

Now that my reading confession is off my chest, I can finally sift through the reasons why I like this book and not others. I must be attracted to his particular writing style. As much as I struggle with the concept of "reading" and being "well-read" and "smart," the one thing I do love more than anything in this world is writing. That must be why I'm blogging right now instead of reading the next chapter.

I overhead a teacher say to one of MY students yesterday, as she grabbed a book from their hands and started reading the back cover, "Oh! Do you like this book? I love books. I'm a HUGE reader. I read everything. You'll have to tell me how it is. I'll probably read it soon anyway." I thought, are you kidding?? No one's buying that crap! I don't read much, but I do know that you can't read EVERYTHING. Don't patronize my kids. They're smarter than you.

I'd like to think that my kids are like me (a lofty and conceited thought, I know). But they're not going to read crap they don't like. I'll let them abandon book after book after book as long as they finally come to rest on one, good, solid, decent piece of writing that they LOVE. And then, after they read it, maybe they can picture themselves doing something like it and opening a notebook (or a blog) and writing something. Isn't that what good readers do?

p.s. make that a FOURTH glass of wine at hand - it's Friday. I'm a nerd.


Meredith said...

This reminds me of an article I read recently that I will try to track down for you. It was all about how the books you read as a child are the books that really impact your life the most. The author was arguing that no matter how many amazing works you read as an adult, you will never love books the same way you loved those books that you read throughout your childhood. The author used "Charlotte's Web" as an example which OF COURSE made me think of you.

I think back to my pre-teen Saturdays at the library where I would collect a huge stack of books. I would go home and lie on my bed reading the day away until my mom would force me to go outside and play...of course, I would just sit on the porch and read. . I still sneak by the children's shelves at the library to se if Lois Lowry, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, or Ann M. Martin have anything new on the shelf. Those are the authors who first spoke to me!

...but I REALLY think you would like "the Secret Life of Bees." Give it another chance, please? :) I am goign to look for Middlesex at the library...what is it about?

Laura said...

I own all three of the books you mentioned, and, I had a hard time with "Middlesex" (aside from the creepiness) - it took me a while to get into it, whereas I LOVED "Secret Life.." and "Time Traveller's Wife" (as you know) - I guess it's a good thing there are so many different types of books out there for all of us and our different tastes. :)