I’ve been wondering (secretly) if the love affair is over. Neither a short-lived nor casual romance, the relationship has been going strong for more years than I care to admit. Signs were pointing to a waning of passion, even though books have clearly played a major role in my life (what did you think?—this is a blog about reading, after all).
I have muddled through or abandoned the last few—really, half-dozen—books I have started—books that came highly recommended—some with awards or at least, nominations. To be clear, I am as enamored of children’s books as ever, whether they be flights of fantasy or picture biographies, whether accompanied by whimsical illustrations or glorious photographs. But books for grown-ups…not so much.
While there might have been a description here or there that gave me pause or a well-crafted phrase that caught my attention or even in the case of Richard Ford’s Canada, a first half that I admired until it turned to murky darkness (reminiscent of my much earlier experience with John Irving’s Widow for a Year), this was not satisfying. No, I was looking for the kind of all-consuming love that Carrie (of Sex and the City, not Homeland—though maybe her, too) craved:
I was the kid who read the back of the cereal boxes, comic books, dictionaries, most anything that was around. I neglected homework in order to read what appealed to me. Going to the library was my favorite neighborhood outing. My mother—my lovely mother—carried home shopping bags full of books and never complained (though she was a bit annoyed that I kept the books too long, thus, accruing overdue fines).
And now that my empty nest allows me the luxury of almost endless reading time, I was having one empty experience after another. What did this mean? And what did this mean in the larger sense, as Samuel Johnson might have opined: When a woman is tired of reading, she is tired of life?
Thankfully, I didn’t have to pursue this line of thought too far, because a couple nights ago, I started a new book—The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud—and the sparks flew. Once again, I experienced and savored that deliciously guilty feeling of staying up late—way too late—and reading until bleary-eyed. Sometimes in moments such as these, I half-expect—no, really, it’s wish—my mother to peek in and tell me it’s time—past time—to go to sleep…but those days are long gone.
Now, this is not so much about this particular book—for you, anyway—as this might not be the book that keeps you up past your bedtime. George Clooney doesn’t make everyone’s heart skip a beat (Really!?!). And no work of art, no matter how lauded, is universally loved and appreciated. The Wizard of Oz is as magical a movie as ever made and yet, over 30 years ago, I was incredulous to learn that my new husband didn’t like it (Really!?!). He muttered something about being frightened by the flying monkeys (who we know were actually good and waiting to be emancipated from the Wicked Witch—by the way, I’m pretty confident I don’t need a spoiler alert here.)
I happily realized it was not me after all; I just needed the right partner to reignite the passion. I can be patient about finding the next connection—it’s enough to know I still can. As it happens, I’ve been spending more time writing and blogging, which leaves less time for reading.
What about you? Is there a book that’s kept you up or made you fall in love with reading all over again?