Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Too Intimate

It's always been hard for me to join and share, when it comes to reading and writing - but there is one way in which I will always, perhaps, remain quite stubbornly shy and backward.  I've never been able to share what I read.

There's an extent to which this is connected to a fear of inadequacy ... but that extent isn't all that great.  As it's hard to embarrass me for my trashy entertainments, it's also hard to make me genuinely measure myself by others' standards.  Whatever failures I may perceive in myself as a reader tend to be fleeting ones.  At bottom, I've always answered only to myself, and this isn't just a simple phrase.

Reading is, for me, such an intensely, profoundly intimate experience that to share it - to *discuss* it - has always baffled me.  Book reports were assignments, for me, as a kid:  never a chance to talk about books I loved.  The idea of sharing reading with almost anyone else in the world bewilders and perplexes me in a fairly negative way.  When I carry books in public, I turn the covers and spines away from prying eyes.  To discuss them with strangers squicks me out badly.

Reading is for me the ultimate selfishness.

Reading is for me the absolute anathema to social experience.  I joke about being a contrarian, but my refusal to read Potter, or Twi, or Grey, or ANY bestsellers, or whatever is popular now, or what I "should" read as an author within a certain genre and with certain expectations and hopes ... is because mass-sharing the experience of reading makes my stomach turn.  When one of the people I am closest to in my life told me I should read Potter, back before it quite became A Thing, the idea of being interested in a little boy wizard rather irked me - but the idea of being told what I "should" read was what utterly turned me off.  And it was suggested to me by someone who knew me almost as well as any person ever has.  The suggestion was made in enthusiasm, in communion, in love.  And it horrified me. I have literally had an easier time having *religion* suggested to me.

THAT.  Is how intimate reading is for me.

To share that has been almost all but unthinkable in my life.  I think my brother is the only person living who can give, or guess, good books for me.  Even X once handed me a book, and when I didn't like it, he suffered some pretty serious perplexion of his own, I can tell you, at what he perceived as the vehemence of my rejection of the work.  It didn't feel like a powerful repudiation to me.

But reading is just something I can't do socially.  On the exceedingly rare occasion I've had a book given to me, with the exhortation that I must in turn give it to someone else, I've actually felt something akin to the guilt of promiscuity.  For one, the artifact of a book is almost sacred to me.  If I like it, I will write in it, read it again.  To read something once, leave no mark in it, and hand it on ... is impossible for me to understand.  To read something I really don't like is just as inexplicable.  The idea of sitting in a group and discussing a book - kind of frankly freaks me out.

The experience of reading is the experience of a whisper, of a dream.  It happens INSIDE me, it exists inside my brain and perhaps goes from there to my heart.  Because it is a creation between me and the author, because it is for me a blessing no other reader can possibly experience exactly the same, its uniqueness is preserved only if I foster its privacy, its singularity.

I was once given a first edition hardback of one of the very best books I have ever loved.  Because it was given to me by the wrong person - because it was not my brother, who first gave me that book, one cruelly lost by my own misplaced trust - I've never been able to so much as even open it.  It sits on a shelf, a technically valuable artifact, but one without the ineffable preciousness of real book love.  I've never even given it to my brother - who first gave me that book, and who gave it best - because of this compromised mojo, the wrongness of its route into our world, the source (he didn't like that particular boyfriend; and I wasn't all that far ahead of him esteeming the guy).  Even selling it seems squicky and weird.  And so, on it sits.

Reading.  Is *that* intimate, for me ...

Reading is a piece of nakedness.  I may be able to admit I have breasts, as it were.  But I'm never going to pop them out for all to see.

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