My whole life, I have loved books. I have loved reading, ever since my sister taught me to read at age 3. I was wrangling large words like “firmament”, “Jehoachim”, and “Amalekites” at age 5, reading Bible passages at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I read James and the Giant Peach in Kindergarten, and Alex Haley’s Roots when I was in 7th grade. In the meantime, I have devoured books beyond counting, classics, modern fiction, non-fiction, self-help books, and medical journals for years and years.
My favorite pasttime has always been to lose myself in a story. I have a habit of picking up a book, and if it captures me, I cannot put it down. Nothing gets done, schoolwork, housework, office work, you name it. I often will read a regular size novel in one day, sometimes two in a day. For instance, today, I read Book 3 of the Series of Unfortunate Events, and then, The Mermaids Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, and thus we reach the whole nexxus of this journal entry.
It was an absorbing, passionate read, as I knew it would be because I had read Sue Monk Kidd’s debut work, The Secret Life of Bees. Forgive me for the grammatical error in not underlining, italicizing or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with book titles, but I don’t have time for that. My soul is spilling here.
When I started reading the book, the first four chapters made me think of my friend, Y. I thought, Y would love this book. But then, the story turns and it is a compelling story, one I couldn’t put down, but the dark edges of the story kept me near tears the whole time I read it. I had a lump in my throat as the character in the story goes through all the different issues that have converged on her at the time of the narrative. It was beautiful, and yet so unbelievably heavy. The kind of book I’ve always adored, my whole life.
But now, I’m thinking maybe I can’t handle that kind of book anymore. I used to come up for air after reading a book like Gone With The Wind, crying for Scarlett, and feeling like Rhett had left ME, and yet I felt glad I read it, and the story added something to my soul. I always have felt that every story I read becomes a part of me in some way. I reveled in the good, long cry I would have after such a book.
A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) is a perfect example of a perfect book (at least in my view all these years). The book is written in a charming manner that is very conversational, confiding, and absolutely hilarious. Yet, the author is bringing you to a climactic ending that is sad, touching and haunting. That book, I first read the summer after I graduated, and yet, I still think of those characters as real, and feel sadness for some of the outcomes of the book. I later read many of John Irving’s other works, including The World According to Garp and the Hotel New Hampshire, and found that this is a common thread in Irving’s works. The Hotel New Hampshire especially was a rough read for me, because I could not put it down, even when the story turned to subjects that cause a lot of inner turmoil for me.
I have mentioned this before, about the feeling I get when I come up from a book I’m reading. The feeling of wearing a lead coat over me. I look over at my bookcase, and many of the books stacked there are lead-coat books. Awesome works of fiction, stories that completely take you over, but lead-coat books nonetheless. All were brilliant and I was absorbed in them absolutely. But even if the dark forces the characters combat are overcome, many times it is only a half victory, because of the suffering that has been endured, that will never leave them. Examples: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Queen by Alex Haley, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, Good Harbor by Anita Diamant. All books I’ve loved, recommended to others and probably will read again.
I think that what used to make me love these books so much was that they were truly magnetic, and even at the bittersweet ending, I would feel as if I had immersed myself in a sensual feast of words, that I had lost myself in the story. My thoughts would linger on the stories, but I still held it away from me in a fashion. Now, I think my emotional and mental strength has ebbed, and the books affect me in a more profound way. I take on the melancholy bittersweet feelings the characters have when they resolve their issues, but they don’t really resolve them. The lead coat of sadness. Of not being able to handle the beauty of a well crafted, semi-sad story anymore.
I just don’t know if I can handle these books anymore. It’s like Y said about Sarah McLachlan…you can’t listen to her all the time without being depressed. Approach Sarah with caution.
But here’s my question. WHY do I unerringly pick the books that do this to me? Seriously, I often pick books off the shelf by their titles alone. Rarely do I read the inside or back cover.
I guess I should have known that “She’s Come Undone” was going to be a rough book for me.
Now, here’s another question. I have “Firefly Summer” by Maeve Binchy waiting for me in the bedroom. Should I dare to read it?
I need to find a few more Bridget Jones Diaries or good old fashioned romance novels where everyone ends up where they need to be in the end. Maybe that’s why I loved me some good hysterical romances when I was younger…happy endings to offset the tragedies I read in the “quality” literature.
Tonight, however, I am offsetting the lead coat by going to a movie with my guy. We haven’t been to a movie in a couple of years, I believe. We’re going to go see Wild Hogs…I know some have seen it, and since they didn’t declare it “total shit” I am willing to take a risk, and I know it’s subject matter my hubby will enjoy.
Before we go, however, there is the ugly task of sitting down with our 12-year-old to find out HOW and WHY she got a D- in choir, and a D in band, and a C in english on her progress report. Poor thing, she doesn’t know it’s coming. Or maybe she does. She has been at a sleepover at TayTay’s since yesterday afternoon. Yesterday evening, we opened the progress report. We at first discussed going over and making Princess come straight home. But then we decided not to. I think we are both just exhausted.
Today, Hubby told me not to tell her over the phone, and we’d hit her with it when we are all home together. We decided I wouldn’t say anything to her about it at all until he got home. Then, we’d sit her down, set the progress report in front of her and ask her what the heck is going on. Well, I know what is going on, she hasn’t been turning in her practice sheets. Every night during the week, she is supposed to practice her singing for 15 minutes, and her flute for 20 minutes. Every Friday I’m supposed to sign the practice sheet and she is to turn it in on Monday. I have maybe signed one sheet since November. But I was determined not to nag her, she needs to learn that there are consequences, and like I’ve been saying in previous entries, her crappy attitude towards me has not made me especially eager to chase her around and help her remember all her responsibilities.
Oh, there will be some crocodile tears here tonight, but they will not work. And because I cannot sign homework sheets to say she has done work that she hasn’t, I don’t know if or how she can get her grade back up to a respectable one in choir or band. As far as English goes, it’s only a C but for her a C is pretty drastic. And her normally good A’s in Math and Science have fallen to B-‘s so she’s wavering over a C in those, too. So there is definitely something going on there.
And the crocodile tears are not going to save her from the consequences that her father has determined are going to be hers. For the next 2 weeks, she will be on complete restriction. No friends over, no going to anyone’s house. No TV, no computer except to do homework. Thereafter, no more friends over during the school week, and sleepovers on the weekends ONLY if all homework has been done to OUR satisfaction. She will be allowed one hour of television or computer games a night. She will be subjected to severe homework policing. I noticed a few weeks ago she is not using a binder or any of the folders we were told by the teachers she would need. She had all the papers shoved into the front pocket of her backpack, all the papers she had gotten or received for weeks. So we are going to go through all her papers and we are going to set her back up with her folders and she is going to have to show them to us every day. Once she gets another progress report or report card and we see all grades back up to at least B, she will be on this restricted television, internet and friends routine.
Well, with this unpleasant meeting before me, and the lead coat of my great book weighing me down, I definitely need a funny movie tonight.