AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS WITH NON-READERS: PART 3

As a comparative literature student and a self-proclaimed book-nerd, I often find myself in situations and conversations with people who do not like to read (at all). These conversation tend to range from very serious to hilarious, and I am sure many of you can relate to these type of situation.  I would like to share and take a look in the world of ‘a reader’, and share one of my stories every week. 

This week’s story outlines a situation that I have encountered a few times. 

Occasionally, I ask a non-reader why he or she does not read. Not because I want to persuade people who do not read into reading. I am just genuinely curious about their answers and I will definitely do my best to understand. There are a lot of answers to this question, and most of the time these conversations are pretty fun. Nevertheless, once in a while I encounter someone who appears to be offended by these type of questions. Very Rarely, someone gets REALLY offended. This happened a few weeks ago, while I talked to someone I just met. He told me he did not like to read. So, I asked him why:

(offended undertone)

Collocutor: Why do you ask!? What do you mean by that?

Me: I am just curious. I don’t mean anything with it.

Collocutor: I can just as well ask you why you DO read.

Me: Yes you can, I would be happy to answer that question.

(Ten seconds of silence)

Collocutor: That is not what this is about. And I don’t have to be ashamed that I am not a reader.

Me: Well that is not what I am implying at all. Just curious.

Collocutor: You don’t have to go smart-ass on me, just because I don’t read. I am not less smart than you, I might even be smarter.

I was not stating anything about who is smart or not and I was definitely not rude to him. I was just trying to get into a polite conversation. Also, I was a little sorry I asked, because he seemed to get a little aggressive about it.

Me: I am sorry if that’s what you think I meant, but I was just asking. Didn’t mean anything with it.

Collocutor: Yes you do, you are trying to prove something.

Me: And what exactly might that be?

Collocutor: That you are better, because you read those stupid books. People who read are boring. You are boring. You try to hide it by proving I am dumb, that is not going to work.

The ‘reading is for boring people’-statement I have heard many times, in many forms. So, I am not even shocked by this in particular. I am just a little stunned because this guy seems to get more and more aggressive about it by the minute. To be honest, I am happy to leave it as it is. Luckily for me, the conversation didn’t last long.

Still, I was stunned. Why was this guy so offended? I love reading, but that does not mean I will treat people who do not read differently.

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AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS WITH NON-READERS: PART 3

I am not ashamed of this.

I thinks it is time I confess some of my reading habits. 

1. When I bought a book of which I also loved the cover, I sometimes buy the Kindle version as well. Yes, just to keep it as new.

Some people can read a book and put it back in their bookshelf like no one ever touched it. Well, not me. I hate this about myself, but I always get folds and chocolate stains in it (I like to eat chocolate while reading, maybe I shouldn’t).

2. Sometimes I compare people I encounter with fictional characters.

I once compared someone to Shakespeare’s ‘Iago’ (from Othello), which was totally permissible.

3. I sniff my newly purchased books. 

I can’t help it! Love the smell. I can’t be the only one, right?

4. I have different “categorized” piles of books in every imaginable place in my house. 

I have a nice bookshelf which is half full, because I have all of these small piles of “currently reading”, “want to read”, “nice covers” and “just finished” -books. In my mind they are perfectly categorized, but to anyone else it probably just looks like a lot of piles of books.

5. I read at least three books at the same time. 

I need to have different books for different times of the day: a ‘before I go to sleep’-book, a ‘during the day’-book, and a book that is really light for when my mind is blur after listening to too many lectures in one day.

So these are my weird reading habits, anyone who recognizes this? Or anyone who has other habits to share? Please, tell me!!

I am not ashamed of this.

I considered myself well-nigh a second Columbus

Featured imageA while ago I started reading the classic Reveries of a Solitary Walker by french writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In this ‘reverie’ Rousseau describes how he left society to try to find himself in nature. It was one of those works of which I was not sure if I would like it. It turns out, I loved it. It is definitely a book I would recommend, because it is both as funny as it is sad. So, I thought I’d share one of the many great parts of this work. 

This particular part is from the seventh walk (instead of chapters, this work is divided into ‘walks’), in which Rousseau is on a botanical expedition on the hillside of a Swiss mountain, where he finds all kinds of plants. During this expedition he is daydreaming about the place being unknown to the whole universe, he is so sure he makes the following comparison:

“’Doubtless I am the first mortal to set foot in this place.’ I considered myself well-nigh a second Columbus.”

Unfortunately, this state of mind is interrupted by a familiar noise:

“Surprised and intrigued, I got up, pushed through a thicket of undergrowth in the direction of the noise, and in a hollow twenty yards from the very place where I had thought to be the first person to tread, I saw a stocking mill.”

This made me kind of sad, because the ‘Columbus’ part made me laugh: I could really See Rousseau walking happily through the mountains, pretending to be the next Columbus. But the second part clearly showed how hard it might be to escape from (modern) society. Here he finds himself in a perfect state of solitude: to be interfered by a stocking mill.

I considered myself well-nigh a second Columbus

I is an other

Featured imageI was just reading the Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud. I love his poetry and letters, and I think he was one of the world’s most influental poets. So, I just wanted to share one of my favorite parts of one of his letters. This one is from his letter to Georges Izambard, who was his teacher: 

“And I have realized that I am a poet. It’s not my doing at all. It’s wrong to say: I think. Better to say: I am thought. Pardon the pun.

is an other. So what if a piece of wood discovers it’s a violin, and the hell with those who can’t realize, who quibble over something they know nothing at all about!”

(Charleville, May 13, 1871)

 

I is an other

Awkward conversations with non-readers: part 2

As a comparative literature student and a self-proclaimed book-nerd, I often find myself in situations and conversations with people who do not like to read (at all). These conversation tend to range from very serious to hilarious, and I am sure many of you can relate to these type of situation.  I would like to share and take a look in the world of ‘a reader’, and share one of my stories every week. 

This week’s story outlines a situation that I have encountered many times – in many forms.

When I tell people I am a comparative literature student, one question almost always arises: “What is your favorite book?” I like to talk about books, and I am almost always willing to start a conversation about every literature related topic whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am always kind of afraid that this question pops up. To be honest, I can not name one favorite book of mine in particular, the list of books I love is pretty much endless, and it somehow feels like betrayal to name just one. Now, this is not something that is very weird, – I am pretty sure many of you book-addicts can even relate to this – but to people who are not that much into reading it sometimes seems kind of hard – almost unbearable – to understand. Mostly, the conversation that follows continues more or less like this:

Collocutor: There MUST be one book, just one, that you can name.

Me: Nope. But I do like most of/all the work of Tolstoj/ Márquez/ Stephen King /Whoever else I like to mention at that moment.

(10 seconds of silence to process)

Collocutor:  But there must be one in particular that is your true favorite! Which one is it?

Me: I really can not answer that question.

Collocutor: Off course you can! Think really hard!

This goes on for pretty much 2-5 minutes. At this point I am getting a little frustrated, because the conversation seems to turn into a never-ending discussion. To them, the fact that I can not name one book, is pretty much incomprehensible. Also, some people think asking the question in a louder and louder volume, might help; you never know, maybe their voice will suddenly hit the better part of my brain and – BAM! – I do know what my favorite book is!

At this point I often get a little frustrated, because I even begin to doubt myself: maybe I am weird for not having a favorite book? So, sometimes I turn to the one and only answer I allow myself in these type of situations: my emergency answer.

Me: Okay, my favorite book is Harry Potter.

(Long silence to process again)

Collocutor: Your favorite book is Harry Potter!? I mean, I like Harry Potter, but I thought you would name something more… literature-like, everyone can read Harry Potter.                          (note: this is so wrong, in so many ways)

So, this is where I put all my effort into leading the conversation to Harry Potter, away from the ‘name one favorite book’-question. To be clear, I do love Harry Potter. Also, I think everyone can read EVERY book, not just Harry Potter-like books. Lastly, I know everyone knows something about Harry Potter, which makes it easy to turn the never ending discussion into a normal conversation again.

I do still wonder if I am one of the few people who does not have one favorite book. How do other people, who do not have one particular favorite, handle these kind of situations? Anyone? Please, tell me! 

Awkward conversations with non-readers: part 2

Apparently, I missed a male/female divide in literature

A few weeks ago I took a two hour train ride to my parents. Unlike most people, I am always happy to travel by train. To me, a train ride means me time, also known as READING TIME. That day I was reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. At the first train stop a man at about 50 years of age sat next to me. I immediately sensed that he was the type of man that is always looking for a conversation, I could tell by the way he tried to look at my book. I already prepared for him to ask what book I was reading (that happens a lot while reading in public, and I am always happy to answer the question), so when he finally started talking I was kind of stunned for a second: “Isn’t that a book for man you are reading?” 

Continue reading “Apparently, I missed a male/female divide in literature”

Apparently, I missed a male/female divide in literature

An ode to R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling: childhood nightmares and dreams

I am convinced dreams are as important as nightmares. Although dreams are more preferable, I think we do need an occasional nightmare for our dreams to remain valuFeatured imageable. When I was about eight years old I discovered both R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: both scared the hell out of me (although the fear I got from Goosebumps was on a whole other level, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named appeared in many of my nightmares as well). Nevertheless I am also very grateful to have read both as a kid. 

First, I would like to thank R.L. Stine for starting my endless love for the genre called horror, no doubt it started with his Goosebumps (and later on, Fear Street). I have read them all, and every single one of them gave me nightmares and numerous midnight cries. My parents always wondered why I kept reading them (luckily they never took the books away from me), and I myself do not have a clue either, except for the fact that they are also just a very good read. And still, I do this to myself: I know I get scared by scary stories, but I read (and watch horror movies) all the time. Recently, I have read and reread a lot of R.L. Stine’s work, every single one of them was as scary to me as it was eighteen years ago. It made me happy.

Although Voldermort was almost as scary to me as R.L. Stine’s Slappy the Dummy (in Dutch he is called ‘meneer van Houten’, which sounds way less scary!), J.K. Rowling is the one I would like to thank for my childhood dreams. My parents gave me my first Harry Potter book (which I do suspect to be an attempt to distract me from my Goosebumps collection, and additional nightmares). From the first page I was in love with Harry. I dreamed to be in Hogwarts all day, I have never hoped more for a fictional world to be real. I think all this dreaming made me a more creative person then I would have been otherwise: I created my own ‘wizarding world’ inside the one J.K. Rowling presented to me, a world that I could be part of. It started my own love for writing, and fed my love for reading.

An ode to R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling: childhood nightmares and dreams