People think that if you’re a writer then you must be a big reader but that doesn't necessarily follow because I’m a writer and I’m not really much of a reader, though then again, I’m not really much of a writer, as you can tell by this clumsily constructed opening sentence that seems to have no form or flow or full stops, so yeah, maybe the theory is right, there you go, we got there in the end, phew, exhausting.
As a kid I was crazy about reading.Credit:Abel Mitja Varela
As a kid I was crazy about reading. Dad wouldn’t let me watch TV at night so I turned to books as a TV-alternative – I’d read in bed for hours and hours, though I’d pause every few pages to hum the “Louie The Fly” jingle just so I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything. But somewhere along the way, I lost my reading routine: I hit adulthood and I was always too tired to read at night – I’d get through a couple of pages, start to drift off, then the book would fall on my face and I’d sleep like that, using my tongue as a bookmark.
It’s sad, I know. I just never got my book-passion back, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard: us writers spend so much time with words, we can struggle to enjoy reading a book in an objective, immersive way – in the same way a filmmaker can struggle to enjoy a movie, or a surgeon can struggle to slice into a steak. Or maybe it has to do with my extreme short-sightedness: any time I read in bed, I have to hold the book two centimetres from my face and I get papercuts on my eyeballs – it hurts like hell and Dettol sure doesn’t help.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’m so accustomed to using computers that books can frustrate me: if I come across a word or a reference that I want to know more about, I’ll instinctively tap the page to bring up a Google-search, but it never works, and in that micro-moment I’ll think to myself, “Strange. Internet must be down. Bloody NBN.”
But I think my biggest problem with books may be a personal one. You see, those sneaky sinister little printed packages have stolen my lover’s heart and for that I can never forgive them. My beloved is a huge reader, she loves books, she has a huge teetering Jenga-stack of them on her bedside table – and she ploughs through them every night, turning the pages so fast I have to wrap the doona around my head to protect myself from the bracing gusts blowing in from the sou’east.
Night after night I lie there beside her, feeling jealous and rejected, thinking, “What about me? I’m as emotional as a book. I’m as interesting as a book. I’m available in both soft and hard versions depending on industry demands.” Then eventually she turns out her bedside light and I think, “Ahhhh, she’s coming back to her true love, she wants me now, books cannot satisfy her the way I can …”
But nope: she clips on her Itty-Bitty Book Light because she thinks she’s keeping me awake – then she continues to read her book, the two of them rustling together under the romantic Itty-Bitty mood-lighting. Defeated and abandoned, I must eventually give up and go to sleep, my head wrapped in doona, lying beside an enormous deep-sea anglerfish, her Itty-Bitty lure dangling in the air, glowing into the late, late of night.
Danny Katz is an Age columnist.
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