Monday, August 13, 2007

It's All About ME

"One of my strongest-held beliefs is that no one should ever finish a book that they're not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed the book is. Believe me, nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read." Nancy Pearl, Book Lust.

I can't tell you how liberating Nancy's words were to me the first time I read them. I am someone who will slog my way through a book, and in some cases, through several books, spurned on mainly by guilt. I often suffer from a severe case of "the shoulds" and I find my life becoming less and less enjoyable. I love to read. LOVE IT. I can't find the words to describe how enraptured I can feel when I'm reading a truly enjoyable and/or well-written book (ok, no one will find a book about, say, The Holocaust, enjoyable, but being moved to tears is just as good). But lately I've been reading (slogging) my way through a couple of books that have felt like 100 pound weights.

My sister Caroline gave me I, Elizabeth for my birthday last year. I love historical fiction and had been reading a lot about that era. Give me anything by Sharon Kay Penman or Phillipa Gregory and I'm in heaven. But I, Elizabeth proved to be painful. I wanted to love it. I wanted to learn everything I could about Elizabeth I and I wanted a juicy romance with Robert Dudley. But right now this is not a lovable book. My guilt is two fold. First of all, Caroline carefully picked out a book for me, knowing I would love it. Not reading it and declaring it to be dry, boring, an insult to Caroline. Also, I really do love that genre, so there must be something wrong with me if I am having a hard time with that book.

At the same time I've been reading the biography of Marie Antionette. Again--a subject with which I am very interested. I have read Antonia Fraser before and thought I remember liking her work. I am a fast reader but it was soon apparent that it was going to take me a year to finish that excruciatingly detailed book. My copy of Marie Antoinette is a library book, which has added a level of urgency and upped the guilt a notch.

So last night I finally gave myself permission to quit both of those books and actually enjoy one of the many many books I have in my to-be-read pile that I keep glancing at longingly.....Life is too short. I wasn't even finished with page 1 of Julia Glass' The Whole World Over before I knew I had made the right decision. I am 38 years old. I have a college degree (in English Lit, no less!) and I have no intention of furthering my education at this point in my life. So why am I wasting my time reading books that make me feel like I'm back in my Beginnings Through Milton English Lit Survey class and I'm almost in tears because I actually do have to read Beowulf and comprehend it! (and by the way, I recently saw a movie poster for a new big screen version of Beowulf. I almost started an anxiety attack right there in the theater lobby. Beowulf?! Seriously?? I could barely handle the Cliff's Notes for it back in 1987. Someone actually pitched this idea to a movie exec and they bought it?! It will be 3 hours of pillaging and plundering by neanderthals in hair shirts. At least they won't have to pay them for speaking parts).

At the same time, I'm finishing my socks. MY SOCKS. The socks I will wear on my feet. From the sock yarn that I special ordered from Canada. A year ago. I'm not knitting for Etsy, Venue, or anyone else until I finish my socks. I realized that I was turning the things I love into assignments. And then becoming resentful. And then I love these things a little bit less. And if I end up not having a batch of felted pears for my mom's shop, so be it. Worse things have happened. But if I'm going to keep doing to things I love, I have to do them in the way I love them.

I do intend to pick up I, Elizabeth again some day. And I will of course get right back to my knitting assignments (assigned with love, mostly!), but I need focus on ME for just a moment or two.

1 comment:

Leah said...

"(ok, no one will find a book about, say, The Holocaust, enjoyable, but being moved to tears is just as good)

you know I have special feelings about that! ha

and yes, you must do things for you in a way they bring you joy.

I say yes! Go Jen! (or Don't Go - whatever makes you feel more at peace!)