I was feeling a bit low, heading into the second trimester with our second baby and fighting off a bout of food poisoning. I crossed my fingers this wasn’t the amoeba going around a colleague told me about. If it was, I didn’t want to know and hoped it would soon leave. I dragged myself downstairs. Monday: a day designated for writing on the weekly schedule. I was almost mid-gear on a novel re-write and had left a section in good shape the day before. But this morning, nearly almost mid-day, the house empty of toddler and husband, I felt primed for nothing more than sofa lazing.
I contemplated going back to sleep or finally getting my car washed while uploading my latest standup routine on YouTube. Ever the multi-tasker, I saw a notification from my brother. He knows that as a literature professor and writer, and as my childhood companion to weekly trips to the library, anything negative about reading riles me up. I clicked on the tagged article: The Pain of Reading.
In sparse but emphatic prose, that doesn’t flinch from gritty details, the writer shook me out of my dehydrated doldrums. Luis Negron writes about his impoverished childhood, his visits to the local library, and his ill advised choice in pleasure reading . Negron’s childhood is a startling glimpse into life outside Little League games. Yes, the world he describes is short on material comfort. But you get used to this. Equally painful is an intellectual impoverishment to which a child cannot adjust.
The essay brought to mind the protagonist An Unlikely Goddess, the novel I’m revising. Sita also finds a haven in books and her mother takes her to the library as one of the few free activities available to an immigrant family on a budget. Unlike Negron’s real life experience, Sita reads anything and everything she can get her hands on, for better or worse, under the indifferent eyes of her parents who are glad she has found a pursuit that will help her academic performance.
What was your own experience with reading like a child? Were you encouraged to get your hands on as many books as possible? Or were books something you came to appreciate later on in life?
The media has made it popular to say that no one reads anymore. Negron and Sita remind me that reading is a habit, like smoking or exercising, that we acquire from those around us. They’ve also reminded me that no matter how I feel, continuing to tell a story may be the most important thing I do all day.