Tolstoy: Let your Freak Flag Fly

I know this girl, and by know I really mean stalk, who is the type of person who wears scarves in the summer, drinks chai tea, and wears boots with shorts. She is the kind of girl who rattles off the names of Russian authors in mid conversation. “I love the new print from Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters it reminds me of the works of Dostoyevsky with a dash of Tolstoy.” When she refers to Thanksgiving, she must first take a moment to acknowledge the Indians who lost their lives. I feel bad that I can’t stand her and I want to be her all at the same time. I am much too fat to shop at those stores, but dammit I want shoes with metal spikes on them too. She is cooler than me and always will be; I have to come to terms with that. One difference between us is that I will never be able to fake enjoying a book again. I used to only read things that I thought had literary value. Not anymore, I want to read things that take me away from this reality for 350 or so pages. I cannot fake an orgasm over the Jeffery Eugenides of the world if I don’t enjoy what he has to offer.

I read all three of the 50 Shade books and I enjoyed them. I don’t have to justify it or explain what I didn’t like about it. I just sat down and read them. The gray silk tie on the cover yelling, “Yeah, I’m reading light bondage porn, what about it.” I got lost in a little world of rich people and bondage. I wanted to take a ride in Charlie Tango. While I read them I didn’t think of the bill collectors calling my cell or the constable who served me court papers. I just read and enjoyed myself while drinking a Diet Coke which is decidedly less cool then a chai tea. There was no need to impress. No need to cover the instantly recognizable cover. I carried the books to the football field and to school with pride simply because I was reading. Shouldn’t that be what we focus on instead of judging each other on our reading choices?

Over dinner one night my kids were asked what they were reading. Kiaya was reading a book called Jellicoe Road and quickly gave us a very detailed report. The person responded, “what ever happened to books like Catch 22 and Old Man and the Sea?” I almost had to be restrained from jumping across the table. I am one of the lucky ones, my oldest daughter reads for the pure enjoyment, my youngest daughter carries around her tattered copy of Where the Wild Things Are? and her father and I roar our terrible roars and gnashing our terrible teeth. Selena reads less than the other two, but still every Christmas asks for a stack of books. We stack them in corners and stack them on tables. Our book shelves overflow with titles, some with Russian authors and others by Jennifer Weiner, they sit together on the shelves never once judging each other. They are books, not a measure of our worth or intelligence, just books full of characters that have touched our hearts or scared the pee out of us. My copy of Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, sits on a book shelve at the back of the house, because I don’t want to be reminded every day of the creepy old man in the suit. My battered copy of Practical Magic sits on top to keep the creepy old man at bay. My copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany sits in a place of honor, the first book on our main book shelve, inside I place trinkets of my life; letters, photos, and a pack of armadillo foot print stickers for safe keeping. Some of the covers are pink and scream “chick lit” others are comics and graphic novels. They are each important and each worthy of praise. Someone took the time to write it, they loved it, and wanted you to read it. While it may not be Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy it makes someone happy.

I remember going through the paper bags of romance novels my Grandma would send me; looking for the one that had the absolute most sex possible. Velvet sheath and glistening swords were the words my 13 year old eyes honed in on. Books like Flowers in the Attic or any other V.C. Andrews novel taught me the lesson that there is always a secret brother you may accidently have sex with, so be watchful. The point is whether or not you read Dostoyevsky, shop at Anthropologie, and drink Chia tea or you love Stephen King, shop at Old Navy, and drink Diet Coke just be happy the person next to you is reading.

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