Saturday, December 28, 2013

Confession: I'm not a very good reader

"I mean, I can read, of course. And I'm not suggesting you can't read out of doors."

D'ya get it? huh? huh? That was a quote from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, which I watched last night. Guess what, I've only read Pride and Prejudice completely once (I reread parts of course). Shocked? Confused by what this all has to do with itself? Lemme 'splain...

I read the first of the Boxcar Children books in first grade and loved it, then hated the second so stopped reading outside of school assignments.

Around seventh grade I decided I was going to be pretentious and work through the British classics, starting with Whuthering Heights. Woof. Do not start your 12 year old with unabridged Emily Bronte. I'm amazed I continued after 60% of all characters died (I did the math, it's in my journal).

Amazingly I moved on and got Pride and Prejudice from a book order (remember those?!). It was paper back and had a terrible painting of blue satin and pearls on the cover with yellow writing. I underlined every word I didn't know. Words like "condescend" (thanks Collins!) and "felicity". Oh man, good times. I loved P&P and remembered that some yahoo sent it to the printer so that it read "how ardently I admire and

love you."
The last two words were on the NEXT PAGE! I had to turn the page! Ugh, the worst. Can you even imagine? Anyway, I loved it and got the '80s BBC production to watch right away, then the '95 when I realized the '80s version was not "the good one".

This was the beginning of my reading phase, and a foreshadowing of its end. I began setting reading goals for myself, and my reward was watching the film...eventually I couldn't read fast enough and so just left the books behind. BUT I did get quite a bit knocked out.

read each Austen before I was 16.
read one of each Bronte before I was 18.
read a Gaskell, read a Forster, and started some Dickens and Thackery and Rand.
read more Brontes and an Ishiguro and Salinger.
read a lot of historical romances and a little dragon fiction...

I tried to keep up with each BBC or Merchant/Ivory film I found that had been adapted from a novel, but I just got lost in the films and left the books all together.

Am I proud of this? No. Have I tried to fix it? Yes, but I fail. I've come to accept that I am not a good reader. I read sewing books, Wikipedia articles, any and all historical tidbits I can find that add up to hours, but it seems my novel days are over. I have reread Persuasion and Little Women and North and South and Ella Enchanted. Part of it is that I have this idea that I've read all the good stuff. I'm sure the novels are better than the films I've read, but I know Tess of the D'Urbervilles ends at Stonehenge...I know how Bleak House and Howards End go.

I'm terrible, believe me, I know. I have this whole self-loathing thing for my bad reading habits. Everyone assumes I read because I've seen the films, or Wishbone, and/or have a pretty quick and ready knowledge of Brit Lit in general. People give me referrals thinking they've found someone with whom they can share the loveliness of their new literary find, but it's no good.

I love to read actually. When I have a good book I love to be transported and get consumed and I stop feeding myself and all of those things, but I just have the hardest time starting. Reading the first Boxcar book in first grade was actually forced on me by my mom and I was not happy about it. I remember. She made me read it, and I loved it, then it was over and I was done.

So there it is, my dirty secret. I'm not a great reader. Now you can all shun me and ignore any conversations we've had about books.

What I have read:
Persuasion, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Whuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, Tennant of Wildfell Hall, A Room With a View, North and South, The Remains of the Day, Little Women, The Great Gatsby, The Importance of Being Earnest, Pygmalion, The Catcher in the Rye

What I've started:
Vanity Fair, David Copperfield, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Gone With the Wind, This Side of Paradise, Wives and Daughters, Howards End, The Fountainhead, Catch-22

A rather old list of what I've seen can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if this is a generational shift. I too love British classics but with my brain tired from school, I have a hard time convincing myself to sit down and read a 500 page classic when the beautiful film version is at my fingertips on netflix. I wish I had read the originals before I watched the films, and I still plan on reading them (sometime), but I don't feel the motivation I need!