I sometimes get frustrated with my daughter when I recommend a book to her knowing she’ll like it, but she brushes me off or otherwise ignores the suggestion. Have I mentioned my daughter is an ornery Taurus?
But then, if I’m being honest, I have to admit she gets this trait from me (and I’m not even a Taurus). It took me at least 25 years to finally read Anne of Green Gables even though I knew I’d love it. Instead I reread The Ghost at Dawn’s House 647 times.
The interesting thing about the internet is the impressive nerd community. We are in our element here. We can connect with other nerds and correct the grammar of non-nerds while bonding over our intense and sometimes life-destroying love of fictional characters. This is accomplished via various means such as Tumblr, or image posts on Facebook, or Tumblr posts made into image posts and then posted on Facebook. It was through these that I gradually became aware of the fact that normal people, apparently, don’t get overly attached to fictional characters. I assume this must be true based on these posts themselves loudly proclaiming they’re sorry-not-sorry about loving fictional characters. In my personal life most of the people I know have just been like, “Oh you have a crush on Ford Prefect? What? That’s normal.” But I assume that if an entire community online has to support each other in this sense, then we must be alone in this trait.
And so I started examining why I sometimes avoid reading new books and it finally hit me: I have enough fictional friends already. My heart can’t always take the vulnerability of meeting new people who might get hurt and will, at the very least, definitely leave me by the end of the book. And I know I can always reread the book, but that is a different experience which is wonderful in its own way. In any case, that is sort of the point, isn’t it? That I keep rereading the old ones rather than new ones. This isn’t to say I’ve been reading the same six books my whole life – I do read new ones, quite often even. This is just the reason that I find myself magnetically repelled from books I know I’ll love.
When I was in high school (during the 90’s when everyone was a shitty beat poet in Doc Martens and thrift store flannels) my favorite English teacher sort of crushed my soul a little by declaring that you can tell a literary person because they are always in the middle of a bunch of books at once. But I never was. I’m extremely monogamous with books. I think it’s due to my attention issues. And maybe loyalty. I can’t cheat on a book, you know. So I assumed I must not be literary and my occasional hesitancy to avoid good literature reinforced that opinion. Now that I’m an adult I know better (although my inner self needs constant reminders). Literary people can read however the fuck many books they want at once. And the reason I avoid new books sometimes is, I think, an incredibly literary reason. After all, who else by shitty beat poets in Doc Martens and thrift store flannels becomes so attached to fictional characters that they literally cry at the words “the end”?
I mean. Except I don’t write shitty poetry anymore. I mean my inner 90’s grunge hipster teen. And yours, too. You know you have one.
I do the same thing with books — even though I know something sitting on my to-be-read shelf is going to be amazing, sometimes I pick up an old favorite and re-visit familiar friends instead (for the 2nd or perhaps 10th time).
ALSO, THANK YOU. Just because I love to read does not mean I have to be in the middle of ten books at the same time. Though I’ve been in the middle of more than one at a couple of different points in my life, I mostly read one book at a time because I feel that if I read more than that, the I can’t give proper attention to the individual storylines. They branch out and overlap each other and I get distracted rather than becoming as fully immersed as I want to be.
Additionally, I don’t fit the read-every-single-day stereotype. I used to do that, but sometimes life happens! For the past few years my pattern has been that I don’t read a damn thing for a couple of weeks and then suddenly I knock out four books in a week, reading for long intervals. It just works for me, just like book monogamy does!
My daughter is the same way about books I recommend to her…and I’ve had to learn to let it go. Eventually (usually) she gives in and reads it and then LOVES it like I thought she would, but it has to be at a moment of her own choosing. She’s…kind of like a cat that way, I guess.
Also, I’m totally a one-book-at-a-time type of literary person too. Unless, maybe, I happen to be reading a fiction and a non-fiction at the same time. Usually not. And even once I’ve finished the book, I have to finish the whole series before moving on. Even if it’s a series I’ve read before. And if it’s new to me, and the library doesn’t have the next book in stock, I panic. Because what can I possibly read for the next four weeks while I wait for the next installment to be returned by the patron who has it checked out? I’ve gotten slightly more relaxed about my reading as I’ve gotten older. But only slightly. I did just buy a book last week that I was otherwise going to have to wait six weeks for at my library…
While I am of the so-called “literary” types and generally have anywhere between 3 and 5 books going at any given time, it never really occurred to me to interpret this a being more “literary” than anyone else. I always sorta chalked it up to my brain working COMPLETELY differently than everyone elses. I actually remember kind of envying people that could devote focus to just one; it’s almost like a compulsive need to have more than one going, usually of different genres, to ease my brain of its crazy. But now, I look at it more like a luxury to be able to do so, but I now think the multibook people are more rare in quantity than monogamous book people.
Also, re: reading new versus rereading: I totally get it. It never occurred to me to think about why I am sometimes draw so strongly to books I’ve read rather than seeking out new books to read. But then again, sometimes I think I have overly ambitious plans to read things like Tom Jones or War and Peace and get overwhelmed by this idea and drop back into Harry Potter or Dune.
Some ones I’ve read lately that I think were worth reading new: Ready Player One, Divergent (<– yes, yes I did jump on the bandwagon. #sorrynotsorry.), The Night Circus, and Shadow and Bone (by the author that was with Rainbow at Barnes and Noble.) I do get very, very attached to characters, but I also read really fast, so I guess maybe I don't have time to get hung up on the book being over? (Sort of related sidenote: One of the things that bugs me about the Kindle is that the percentange they show you often includes random non-book nonsense at the end, so a few times I've read really awesome books like The Night Circus on my Kindle, I *think* I have all this book left, and then suddenly it's over. THis is when I have little internal meltdowns about being ripped away from the characters too soon.)
UGH. I have that problem on my Nook. WHAT THE HELL, ELECTRONIC BOOKS?
As for who is literary and who isn’t… I guess I finally figured out that the criteria for being literary is just, you know, being literary. In whatever form that is for you. End of story. That’s it. :)