I used to be a voracious reader. We had no books at home, or hardly any (I am not exaggerating about this), but when I entered first grade (we had no kindergarten), I was determined to be reading at an 8th grade level. How could that be? What was I reading? How did I learn? My mother, a young widow with four children ages 5 and under, was too busy trying to be the town clerk (in our home -- a position she took over from my father when he died), grow a garden, keep a house up by herself, and literally just trying to survive, to ever read to us. I might have been reading to my siblings, but I don't remember doing it. And again, how did I learn? It's a mystery.
My nose was in a book close to 24/7 until I stopped pleasure reading for a period of time in my late 20s. I was a young mom, I was working full time, trying to remain fit, going to lots of canoe races and such, and producing 500 pages of transcript a week. There was no time for pleasure reading.
At some point I started to resent that, and so I made a rule to myself: After all the work was done, and when I went to bed, I would read every night for at least a couple of hours. I did. And I would go to sleep at 2 a.m. I kept that up for many, many years. A couple or three decades, even.
But now I hardly ever read.
That is not really accurate. I read a ton. But it's almost all on the internet, and it's almost all either news or spoof news or little snippets of mostly nothing of any substance. No novels. No in-depth magazine articles, no investigative journalism, no biographies, no treatises on ancient history or gardening or health or living the green life. It's sad, but nothing seems able to hold my interest anymore.
I got the Kindle, and I have read more since I got the Kindle than I have for a long time, but I still have trouble finishing anything. I'm certainly buying a lot more books (it's so easy to make that click and lay down your 10 bucks for a Kindle book), so at least I am doing my part to help the industry. I tried listening to books, and I got an audible.com account. They put me to sleep.
I have tried several different genres. Right now, my reading list includes:
The Land of the Painted Caves, Jean Auel
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, Gail Collins
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee, Sarah Silverman
The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language, Melvyn Bragg
Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee
I'm somewhere in the midst of each one of these. A fairly eclectic collection, wouldn't you say? But none of them can hold my attention. I do not feel the excitement of reading anymore. I read something and think, "Yawn, yawn. Been there, done that. Trite, formulaic, predictable, I know already what the ending is going to be," etc.
[Special Abigail story I have to add in here: Abigail was a rather late learner in some things, reading included in that list. We just had to be patient, and she would extremely suddenly "get it." She did not seem to learn things methodically, incrementally, but would just go from 0 to 60. For two years, it seems, she could not learn to tie her shoes. Then one morning she got up, announced, "I have figured it out," and tied her shoes. Same thing with riding a bike and, it turns out, reading. And on the day when she finally learned to read, she could read just about anything. But when that happened, she was sitting in her car seat in the car. I was driving. She said, "I thought I would feel really different when I could read. But I don't."
I laughed at the time (without letting her see my laughter), and I laugh every time I think of that moment. I think she thought bells and whistles would go off. I think she thought sparks would fly and fireworks would go off. She described that she thought the world would change colors and a literal door would open and everything would look different. I think she was defining orgasm at age 6. I also think she thought that I and her dad had really misled her about what a wonderful thing reading is. I think she experienced what she had been hoping for and waiting for the first time she saw a Shakespeare play with me in England when she was 8. For her, that was the moment when everything changed colors and sparks flew and a key had unlocked a door.]
Anyway, back to the topic at hand:
Have I used up all my reading brain cells? Have I developed late-onset ADHD? Attention and focus have certainly never been an area of deficit for me, and that is rather an understatement.
I did finish The Help by Kathryn Stockett not too long ago. I loved it.
I thought I had my love of reading back. But nope. Like Abigail back when she was so young, when I start something new I get excited and hopeful, but then it fizzles. I keep waiting and wishing and looking for something more, and then I give up, never finishing it.
Where has the pleasure gone?
And right now, a few author friends who have sent me books to review are getting a horrible sinking feeling in the pits of their stomachs.*
*But don't worry, friends. I will get a grip on it again. I hope. ;-)