Friday, January 28, 2011

I have hobbies.

Waaaaay back in the early 90's, when the regular family started getting "home computers" and signing up for "electronic mail," the most constructive form of communication for the newly teched-out Generation Y was: the Email Quiz.

That's right. You remember them. "Answer these questions honestly! Send it to all your friends!" I loved email quizzes because you could only answer the questions asked in one sentence or less. And as I have a propensity for one-lined sarcasm, I felt these surveys really conveyed my sense of humor. They likely did not because everyone that I forwarded the message to was probably too busy coming up with their own answers to the questions to pay attention to mine....just like I had done with theirs.

I suspect that this form of communicating with your peer group is not really a thing of the past but rather a product of teenage attempts at relationship building. I am sure all the kids are still doing them these days. Via text message, of course. And yes, if you send me one, I will probably still fill it out, even if I should be beyond that.

Anyway, the point of this bit of nostalgia is that one of the most obnoxious and difficult questions to answer on those damn surveys was the inevitable hobby-related query. "What do you like to do?" "Name your favorite pastimes." "If stranded on a desert island, I would need these five things...." "On my weekends I like to..."

And despite my strong desire to say something unfunny, I usually answered these inquiries with some sort of variation of "I like to read. I need books."

Because, honestly, I do. The written word makes me happy. Keeps my brain active. My imagination alive. I'm one of those people who will almost always read the book before it becomes a movie...except in the case of Gone With the Wind, which I couldn't really help since the movie came out in 1939 (I still remember the first day I watched it at Babe and Papaw's house - not in 1939). I love bookstores and libraries and even the little kiosks at the supermarket with trade paperback versions of the New York Times Bestsellers. I'd like to say that I am not picky with my genres, but I usually avoid the Fabio-covered novels that involve heaving bosoms and stable boys. Most of the time. I will probably read it if you recommend it, even if it takes me while to get to it. Depending on the book, I can usually read one or more a week. And I usually read more than one book at a time. I love to stay awake until the wee hours of the morning reading a good book. I love to read books at the coffee shop. On my couch. At my sister's house with her sitting on the other side of the couch. On camping trips. On planes. But not in the car because I get car sick.

Except that lately...this has happened.
No, this is not merely the stacking of books on my bedside table. It is the stacking of partly read, UNFINISHED books on my bedside table.

I recognize that there are some books you just cannot get through for some reason. The plot is bad. The characters are poorly developed. The bosoms are heaving too much and the stable boys are too hipster or metrosexual for your taste. This has happened before, but not on this level.

Actual Stable Boy (see the horse?):
Actual metrosexual/hipster (see the ironic scarf and purse?)

I have literally hit a wall in my reading abilities. In the last four months, I have completed from cover to cover a grand FREAKING total of 5 books. FIVE! CINCO!!! CINQ!!! 5!!!!!
And here they are:
Black Sun by Edward Abbey
The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield
Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
The Worst Hard Time by Tim Egan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I've tried everything. I've spent hours in the book store perusing for authors I know, looking for titles that might break down this wall. I've considered revisiting the books I've already read and loved, though I usually give those away to people because I loved them too much to let them languish on my shelves. I've tried books on tape, just so I can knit or otherwise occupy my time because I know I can concentrate on both the book and the knitting better that way. But nope. Nothing.

I have a feeling I know what the problem is, but it is very difficult to articulate. It may have something to do with my current situation. When one is sad, feeling a little down from the events of Life, such as divorce - a simple, uncomplicated book is the logical choice. The genre of "Chick Lit"falls into this category. As defined by Wikipedia:

"Chick lit is genre fiction within women's fiction which addresses issues of modern women often humorously and lightheartedly.The genre sells well, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit. Although sometimes it includes romantic elements, women's fiction (including chick lit) is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because in chick lit the heroine's relationship with her family or friends may be just as important as her romantic relationships."

Except that every "Chick Lit" novel I have picked up lately involves one of these elements: 1). Girl Meets Boy. 2). Girl Loves Boy. 3). Relationship ends badly. 4). Everyone drinks cosmopolitans and has a lot of money. Blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. 5). Everyone makes out with their soul mate. And everyone has babies. The End.

See how this could be bad for the perpetually 29 year old divorcee?

So in response to this, I have looked to the other end of the spectrum. The serious, intense, critically reviewed novel that "speaks to the human soul and the dark side of the moon."

Except that every Serious and Intense novel I have picked up in retaliation for the "Chick Lit" novel I just threw down in disgust involves one of these elements: 1). Someone is sad. 2). Someone has just gotten: divorced/a rare incurable disease/diagnosed with death. 3). A violent act occurs. 4). Kittens are drowned in buckets of tears. Blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. 5). Everyone dies. And the puppies are left alone to starve. The End.

I am not really sure what the solution to this problem is, obviously. But I do know that I would like to get back to listing "reading" as one of my favorite "hobbies or pastimes" that I would do on a desert island....even if I was stranded there with a stable boy who is actually my soul mate and I have lots of money and there are cosmopolitans. And especially if the desert island was actually a mountain top and he was more like a mountain man and we wouldn't really need any money since we can live off the land or walk to the store...but there are still cosmopolitans if we want them.

At the moment, all I can really say is that my hobby is "Collecting books."

Oh, and Dad....This is a cosmopolitan.


nick said...

I'm having the same problem with reading the printed word. As a blogger, all my time is consumed with reading what's online. I love it, but it certainly leaves a whole the likes of Salinger and Fitzgerald once filled.

On a side note, I have a Gen Y-focused blog,, and we accept guest posts. If you're interested, you can submit a guest post via this page

Anonymous said...

May I suggest World War Z by Max Brooks or Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Neither chick lit, nor intense. Well intense in a "zombies are taking over the world and this is an oral history", or "I just found out my father is the African trickster god Anansi and I have a brother who is getting me in trouble" sort of way. Both smashingly good. You can hold me responsible if they aren't.


Archaeology Ash said...

Hmmmm....I hadn't thought of zombies or trickster gods....but now I will!