I started watching Game of Thrones on Netflix, and so far so good. Lots of sex and violence, it’s my kind of series. However, everyone I talk to about it asks, “Did you read the books? OMG, you have to read the books.” They mean well, but really, are they kidding me? There are hours and hours of episodes to get through. Why on earth would I read the books? I barely have time to watch them, let alone read them. There is laundry to do, toenails to paint and Facebook to troll.
I have a confession to make. Truth is, I hate to read. There, I said it. Wow, that was a weight lifted! I feel so much lighter. No. I don’t read. Anything. Ever. I hate reading. The last book I finished was never.
People like to stereotype me as a “reader” just because I teach high school English. I think that’s grossly unfair. Just because I teach Pride and Prejudice doesn’t mean I’ve read it. Please! Although I have seen both the BBC mini-series with Colin Firth and the movie with Keira Knightly so I do feel competent and quite an expert on the topic.
Why on earth would I voluntarily read a book when I can just watch the movie? Seriously? All that back and forth with the eyes…so monotonous. Get me a remote and a vodka and I can happily knock through a classic in two hours.
I know it’s “cool” to read. Apparently, it has been for a while. Some of my smarter, erudite friends who assume I read are always offering suggestions for new titles I should check out. I always feign some excitement. I can usually fake my way around that conversation with, “Not yet, but I ordered it. I can’t wait.” Or if someone starts down the plot path, and are expecting some feedback, I can answer with, “Nope – stop it! Don’t ruin it for me, I haven’t gotten there yet. Spoilers!”
The worst is when they reference previous novels the author has written, as if I had read it or am even familiar with the author. “Did you read Rachel Kushner’s new one? I can’t wait to get my hands on it. You’ve read her first novel, right?” That is a sticky question, because not only have I not read it, I don’t even know the title. They haven’t made the movie yet. Come on Hollywood! Catch up!
When I had knee surgery, my “friend” Michelle gave me a copy of “Cleopatra’s Memoir” and I almost slapped her. Some friend. That thing has like thousands of pages. As if I would ever have the time, inclination or wherewithal to actually read it. Also, turns out the movie starring Elizabeth Taylor was from a completely different book. I had to totally tap dance my way around that conversation. Weeks later, when she asked about it, I used words like “profound” and “epic” and, for a brief moment, I thought I saw a flash of doubt in her eyes.
When I absolutely have to read a book, I usually read the first chapter, the last chapter and then a random chapter in the middle. That is the most important one, because then you can reference random plot points in conversation. That’s what’s cool about literature. You can always B.S. your way around metaphor and meaning. For example, “Yeah, sure, the green light at the end of the dock was important, but what about when Gatsby shows Daisy all the custom-made shirts in his closet? I thought that was profound and epic. Think about it – not only is it his costume, like he’s pretending/acting to be someone he’s not, but it’s like his armor too. Right?” Also, on a side note, I liked the movie with Redford more than the DiCaprio.
As a high school English teacher, I assign a novel each quarter that students have to read outside of class. Four books a year. That’s more than I have read in my entire life. (At the end of every quarter, I have them do a power point on the novel, so I don’t have to read any of papers. Also, I give them a list of books that I probably should have read by now, so I can get more familiar with the plots. I consider it great time management – a teacher’s best tool.) I also have many, many, many, many, many students who blow off reading the book and just watch the movie. They have a special place in my heart. While other teachers may bitch and moan about those kids, I embrace them. When they look me in the eye, boldly lying to my face, I smile with pride. You go little slacker! You go! I love these kids so much, that often, on tests, I will write questions just for them, things that the “smart” kids wouldn’t know because they read the book – questions like “What color was Gatsby’s car?” The kids who saw the movie would know that. I would know that too, because I never read the book. When the smart kids ask me about the validity of the question, I can shoot back with something about it being profound and epic and that it clearly represents his desire to better his life. They lurk off feeling stupid, and I wink at one of the kids who got it right, as if to say “I know, right?”
Sometimes the movies of books are dull and seem pointless. I always assume it was because the book was dull and pointless. When asked what I thought of “Beloved“or “Life of Pi,” I can honestly say, “I thought it was kind of flat.” Half the time, people seem relieved that I have been so honest and brave to share that opinion, and sometimes friends whisper, “I thought so too – I didn’t get half of it.” While I’m on the topic, can someone who actually read “The Life of Pi” tell me what was up with the flowers and the teeth on the island? Because in the movie, it seems like something that was really profound and epic, but still left me wanting more…