Writing about Reading

Writing about Reading

Writing about reading is somewhat like dancing about architecture, but anyone who’s met me knows about my thing for books. And since this blog is about things that matter to me… well here goes. Read on.

Since the age of 8 I’ve continuously had my head stuck in at least 1, 2.. 5 books. I spent my summers reading the entire village library (including Lace, wooo.. fruity) and as a adult, one of the biggest achievements of my life is that I can finally afford to buy all the books I want. Growing up I read under the covers, I read lying on my single bed as the rain hammered down all summer, and no camping trip was complete without at least 3 overdue library books returned slightly damp and musty smelling. Today my bedside table is littered with books, New Yorkers and pairs of glasses because I read before I go to bed. In fact, I read all day. I read as I crunch my breakfast toast, I read in the bath, on the bus, on my sofa with my dog, when I’m camping or getting tattoo’d, on the treadmill at the gym and once they invent a way for me to read and drive (safely), I’ll probably do that too. I listen to books being read to me (Audible… when you don’t feel like reading) and yes, I’ve even read through my annual exam. I’ve not yet read during sex, but hey, give it time.

I read anything and everything. From the cereal box to David Foster Wallace (more similarities than you’d think). Biographies inspire me (I would hate mine to be boring so each one prompts me to get off the sofa), mysteries indulge my need to solve problems (and remind me why I didn’t become a cop) and fiction.. well fiction is my crack.

Fiction can be a time machine. A portals to other places, allowing me to symbiotically read other people’s minds and experience things I can’t even envision. I can be the girl locked in a room for her entire life (Emma Donoghue), the middle school kid with the facial deformity (‘Wonder‘) or even the mentally challenged kid who’s trying to solve a dog murder (Mark Haddon).

Through books I’ve traveled the world by train and kayak (thank you Paul Theroux, you crotchety bastard), visited the breadth of India from the slums (‘Shantaram‘) to the upper classes (Salman Rushdie), experienced the complexities of kite flying in Afghanistan (Khaled Hosseini) and even tiptoed through Chinese dynasties (Jung Chang).

I’ve discovered secret societies where true feelings must be hidden (Suzanne Young),  or books must be burnt (Ray Bradbury). Where medical school is free (but you do pay) (F Paul Wilson) or secret campus societies that murder hostages (Stephen White). I’ve met self harmers with totally creepy moms (Gillian Flynn), and don’t get me started on ‘Gone Girl’. Lets just say ‘don’t trust your spouse’. I actually hugged the book at one point and squealed with delight at the wicked twist in the middle.

But of course I can’t skip over my trash reads. Due to my crackish consumption of trashy romances, I’ve had about eleventy million boyfriends, I’ve found true love thousands of times and I’ve probably received at least a hundred proposals or so. To do so I’ve lost weight, overcome my fiscal irresponsibility,  joined AA, I’ve written a diary,  left my husband,  and even shared a cellphone with a stranger. Romantic fiction is beyond formulaic, must be British (if I’m escaping, I’m escaping back to my roots), and  – spoiler alert- the girl always gets the good guy.
But its my crack; I’m embarrassed about my consumption but I can’t help myself. My trash is my panacea for all ills – PMS, bad day at work, snow storms, breakups and even an excuse to climb into bed at 7pm. Nothing is better than a new trashy read from an author you trust, freshly laundered sheets and hours before you actually need to go to sleep.  Nothing.

Yes I know. I have a problem.

Except if this is my addiction, I think its a pretty harmless one. Its just a little inconvenient and over the years I probably could have bought myself a Porsche… or two. Plus on my dating profile, its really not very sexy to include ‘reading’ as a hobby.  I can imagine the crocheted blankets and cats of that person. And I’m a dog person anyway.

At one point I was packing 40 boxes of books everytime I moved house and I had one mover refuse to take the job after experiencing the ‘basement climb’ with my 1000+ book collection the previous year.  Apparently his back couldn’t take it twice in one lifetime.

But with the advent of the Kindle, I sucked it up, cried a bit and sold off my books for a $1 each. I kept about 200 – because I reread books constantly – but I sometimes wish I had kept more. There’s nothing like standing in front of your shelves and picking out an old friend to accompany you for a long lazy afternoon or a cold snowy night. Searching my Kindle archives isn’t quite the same.

And there’s the Kindle ‘death’ issue. Amazon has actually asked me to be a tester as I keep murdering a Kindle each year due to overuse. Apparently the battery isn’t made for us heavy readers and they have a tendency to pack up as I approach the 11 month mark. There are actually quite a few of us who have this problem… the over read. And no, we’re not some fancy group of professors… we’re people in need of escapism. Of adventure. Of worlds that don’t exist or decisions that we’d never make. We need romance and love, family and friendship. We want the world to be better, different, stranger or even done (thank you Cormac).But most of all.. we need our friggen Kindles to stay charged a little longer so we can read that Elizabeth Strout we just downloaded.

What those dating profiles actually mean

In moments of boredom, solitude and basically when I need to tune out, I peruse the ‘man ads’. Not the ‘here’s Mr. Winkie, you wanna piece?’ ads, but the ‘looking for a date/ I’m witty and yet still strangely single’ type ads. After oooooo 5 years of this (it comes in waves, its not my second job or anything), I’ve discerned some general guidelines for sorting. Ignore at your peril.

” I have 2 wonderful children who are my life”
As of the mid 30s, this is a staple opener for the divorced guy. Take this to mean he’s a stay at home welfare dad, he’s boring and has little use for anything other than Sprout Tv and Tater Tots, or that he’s not actually looking for a women, but a ‘woman hole’ for Mr. Winkie. This guy hasn’t dated in a loooong time and is using his kids an excuse for having no friends and no social life.
Advice to Guys: Stating that you have no time for anything other than your kids in an ad for an actual, live woman pretty much cements your priorities out of the gate. We get it – they’re wonderful, they’re amazing and unique, but so are we. Next.

“Looking for that one special lady”
Now I know I”m no longer able to wear a mini skirt and I think Justin Beiber looks like a lesbian, but no one under the age of 80 likes to be referred to as a ‘lay-dee‘. Anyone who self identifies as a ‘lay-dee‘ is typically a early 40s transsexual who wants to host tea parties while listening to Chris De Burg or an upper class wannabe with Parade magazine china on the dining room wall. If I’m a lay-deethat makes this guy a mother obsessed wuss. What he actually wants is a ‘nice girl’ who doesn’t ever say the wrong thing, swear or god forbid, have sexual demands.
Advice to Guys: We are are ‘women’ ‘chicks’ ‘girls’ ‘dates’ or even ‘dude’. We may sometimes be ‘bitches’ but wait for the blue hair and estrogen cream before you call us ‘lay-dees‘. My vagina still works thank you.

No one can believe I’m single” 

We can. You’re on a dating site.
Advice to Guys: You’re on a dating site. We’re all mostly single. Many of us are surprised about this. Sharing your confusion as to this fact only reinforces your oblivion towards the real world.

“I’m just looking for that one right person”
I’m totally thrilled that you don’t subscribe the to polygamous lifestyle but I have to break it to you. There is no ‘one’ right person. There are many right people. The fact that you haven’t met any at your age indicates you might need to leave the house occasionally.
Advice for Guys: Don’t be so damn picky. 35 yr old blond, millionaire, large busted virgins are impossible to find outside of SecondLife or Russianbrideforsale.com.

“Looking for someone real”
This is my personal favorite as a online headline. You’re online. No one can see you. No one knows who you are. I could be a man. Or 12. Or living in Nigeria. My picture could be taken from a website for slimming pills. I could actually be Charles Manson. You’ll never know. Does anyone ever wake up and think ‘hey, I’m not actually real, I’m kind of fake’.
Advice for Guys: We’re all as real online as that picture you took back in 1989 leaning against that Porsche and posted yesterday. Kinda real. Sorta real. Really real. Take a chance, you might really like the ‘real’ me.

Hello. My name is Rachael. I am addicted to reading trash.

There are no 12 steps for trashy reading.
Its something its taken me a long time admit and will probably spend the next 30 years trying to manage.
I love to read trash.
Now, by trash I don’t mean bodice rippers and line ink renderings of Fabio on the front , or pulp thrillers featuring devil spawn and supernatural forces. No… its even worse.

I like chick lit.

The vanilla of trash.It would somehow be excusable if I was getting my thrills from stories of serial killers on the loose, forensic scientists with a crush on the sexy detective, or even bad ass morticians. Nope, give me a girl who hasn’t got a clue, a couple of impediments and a happy ending and I’m set for an afternoon on the sofa with a Cheshire cat grin.

It started slow, borrowing some of my sister’s Marian Keyes.Then I read a Shopaholic. I laughed at the simplistic plot, the basic language and the heroine’s basic stupidity.. but I was hooked. Shamefully hooked. I found myself scanned Amazon for other pink covers. Anything featuring heels and potentially a handbag. I looked at the ‘Others also bought’ strip with a notepad and expanded to Meg Cabot, Emily Griffith, Harriet Evans, Jennifer Weiner (a little high brow and meaningful for trash, but still delightfully escapist). Soon my collection of pink covers were overtaking my spare room and I started strategically re-shelving them amongst my ‘serious’ books so as to dilute my apparent addiction for anyone who strayed over to check out my literary collection. I would excuse my books when eyebrows were raised as ‘summer read’.

I knew I had a problem when I started dating and had to start racking my brains for  non trash titles for ‘My Latest Read’ on my match.com profile. No one wants to even wink at a woman who’s entire back catalog focuses on finding a mate, getting married or at least getting the hot guy all while appearing disarmingly lost and befuddled. I’d run a mile, and I’m her.

My Kindle became an enabler. I could hide my addiction behind a few well meaning downloads (‘oh the new Ian McEwan? Love his female perspective, the best since Atonement’). Meanwhile there they lurk in my Archives, literally hundreds of vanilla pulp novels featuring watered down Bridget Jones-es. I scan Amazon for new releases, download samples, and purchase while lying in bed. I love a new download at 9pm. Nothing beats the excitement of discovering my heroine, learning her weak spots, trying to identify the guy in the background who will inevitably win her heart. Really, I’m cringing even as I write this. I know I have a problem, I just can’t stop.

This wouldn’t be such a crushing issue except I want to write. I have wanted to write books since I was 8 years old and started keeping a diary. And if I follow what I’m told, ‘write what you know’, I’m admitting that that literary mask I wear is just that.. and not only do I partake frequently, I want to actually ADD to the genre. Bring my own vanilla scented, heart driven, female ‘not quite got it together yet’ protagonist into the world. So I excuse my reading, mentally mark it up as ‘research’ and download the new Madeline Twickenham.

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step. Well, I’m admitting it. I am powerless over Chick Lit. The second step.. well I don’t think a higher power is going to help me, but maybe if Helen Fielding  would get off her ass and write Bridget Jones sequel I might be tempted to consider it.