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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

what's old is new again

Okay, it's time to pull out one of my old humour columns. And not because I've been too lazy to write anything else. Well, maybe it is, but if it is, I ain't telling.

My local newspaper was kind enough to publish this column way back in 1999—hence the outdated political reference in the last paragraph. Wow, where has the time gone?


It could be worse I suppose; I could still be smoking. But it's clearly out of control. I just can't stop. And temptation lurks everywhere. I mean, if I was addicted to alcohol, I'd just avoid liquor stores. But how can I possibly avoid reading? Just getting the mail poses a daily threat.

I should have known trouble lay ahead when I found myself having to explain to high school friends why a dictionary had been my favourite Christmas gift. Or earlier, during my 10th summer, when librarians finally stopped noticing my weekly 10-book drop-off. Or during university, when I ceremoniously declared to roommates that it was Margaret Atwood Day, just so I could skip classes and read her latest release.

There should be a support group for people who read too much, or too compulsively (yes, that includes those of us who feel guilty for not perusing—or at least skimming every section of the newspaper). Something like Readers Anonymous. And even if I no longer bought anything to read (I'm now at the point where I encourage people NOT to return what they've borrowed), I'd still have enough material to last me for years. So why did I recently subscribe to the local paper when it'd be a lot easier to avoid getting it otherwise? Am I a masochist to boot?

In my own defense I must say that I no longer keep track of all the books I want to read. Oddly though, that seemed to coincide with the season finale of TVO's Imprint (one of my favourite shows of course), which sadly left me as deeply in mourning as if a friend had gone on extended vacation. And daytime television, traditionally at least, used to provide a safe haven from the questionable behaviour of reading. Way to go, Oprah.

Being a writer doesn't help either. It just means having to revise my own words, which invariably leads to dictionary consultations (still more reading), and before you know it the whole morning's shot. Besides, writing is dangerous as well. Especially personal essays. They have a bad habit of revealing who you really are. It'd help if I was better at lying—but I digress.

Part of the problem I think is my obsessive need to complete a book once I've started. It's like hearing my mom's voice from years ago urging me to clean my dinner plate: "It's a sin to waste," echoes loudly in my head. Books even enter my dreams. I swear I can read in my sleep. My eyes follow the letters going by, although I can't always tell what the passage is about. One of my recurring nightmares, not surprisingly, has to do with books piling up higher and higher.

I've considered getting one of those T-shirts that says, So Many Books ... So Little Time, but as I won't publicly admit to any other vice, why start advertising my worst one? Maybe I should be registered as a dangerous bibliophile. On the other hand, I don't think it's completely my fault. Why don't bookstores and libraries post: DANGER. POTENTIAL ADDICTION HAZARD. ENTER AT OWN RISK warning signs? At least cigarette packs informed me of my foolish ways.

And speaking of libraries, once I discovered that I could put books on hold on my home computer—I went nuts. Apparently, bingeing applies to books as well. Now I keep getting these notices that they're ready to be picked up, all it seems, at the same time. And on the topic of computers, have you noticed that even the Internet does little to try to stop you from reading?

It's also occurred to me that the amount of time spent reading, writing, reading about writing, writing about reading, and even reading about reading (I'm a sucker for titles like How Reading Changed My Life), could be considered indecent. And that doesn't even include thinking about any of the above-mentioned items.

How on earth do other people manage? Maybe it's a good thing I'm unemployed; how else would I have time to read anything? (Uh oh, hope Mike Harris doesn't hear about this—he might invent a workfare program even for those not on social assistance.) Could I be paid to read? And of late I'm beginning to wonder if books somehow pick me, instead of me picking them, but that's another story. By the way, could somebody please remind me to cancel my book club membership soon? Thanks.


Blogger Keiser said...

it's been that long too since my human had an article in the newspaper...

June 28, 2006 9:23 a.m.

Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

I understand. Yep. Even the feeling guilty part, though mine comes from reading pleasure books rather than academic books. And addictive? Thank God for the public library's free drug program.

June 28, 2006 4:14 p.m.

Blogger KJ's muse said...


Too funny.

June 28, 2006 11:42 p.m.

Blogger country dweller said...

Very funny article! One of the advantages of getting older is that you stop feeling guilty about doing what you like. Most of my neighbours in Calvesgarden would consider it the height of indecency to spend a whole day reading. I don’t worry about it. And I’ll read anything, labels on cans, chocolate wrappers, timetables, if I’m caught somewhere without a book.

June 29, 2006 8:29 a.m.

Blogger KJ's muse said...

Thanks country dweller. Hmmm, a whole day of reading sounds like bliss.

June 30, 2006 9:27 p.m.


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