The potent combination of three offspring and over a decade clocked as an English teacher have rendered me utterly illiterate. Or, more accurately, my kids and my classroom stint have left me wishing desperately that I could not read. Unfortunately, deeply ingrained prejudices and cultural biases compel me to turn pages, reducing me to little more than book chattel. If only I could turn off the crazy voice in my head that says, “books are good for you.”
Reading is a total nightmare, especially fiction. Even more especially, “serious” fiction. Which is why I refuse to read any of it. Instead, I recently read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen which was totally hilarious. Like suburban, affluent, left-leaning parents could actually be obnoxious, whining, narcissistic bores like the people in this book. Ha! Awesome. I hope Jim Carrey is in the movie. He’d be perfect.
I’ve spent too many hours parsing Hemingway with a roomful of 15-year-olds to be bothered with “literary merit,” and too many years getting my MFA to lose precious hours that might otherwise be spent catching up on sleep to pore over dreary examples of domestic realism. Which is why Freedom was so perfect for me.
Also, because I am a parent, I categorically refuse to read books that hinge on kids in peril as a plot point. Like I want to spend my leisure hours exposing my imagination to these horrors. I spent enough of my day worrying about kids. This is a parenting site after all, so can I get an “amen?” Only hacks depend on this kind of melodrama to suck drone-like reader/zombies in. Which is why I recently bought The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Last Child by John Hart, and Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly. With these talented writers, I am sure to be spared any “kids in trouble” silliness.
Unfortunately, my kids have been completely ensnared in this whole “reading is good for you” meme. I’m thinking about taking my cues from Pap in Huckleberry Finn, swatting books from my kids’ hands and warning against “putting on frills.” But I know it’s no use; the cultural bias towards reading is too strong. Besides, I could damage the iPad that way.