Master of Her Domain
Over the weekend my husband and I went out for dim sum with dear friends who just returned from a cruise of the Mediterranean. Because they are book nerds like us, our conversation quickly turned from ruins to shipboard reading. I'd given them a copy of Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer and, they said, a dozen of their new acquaintances had scribbled down the title so they could buy the book when they got home (a few may even have downloaded it while still on the high seas).
Part of this sharefest is due surely to these friends' ebullient personalities, but it made me think about the place of reading in American society. We "treat" ourselves to books during vacations and breaks in the routine. Often airplane flights, train rides and hotel balconies are the places where people crack the spines of new books with the greatest abandon.
We feel somehow guilty when we read. Because it gives us pleasure? Because it is done largely in private? Because it can involve our imaginations? Hmmm. Sounds like a different familiar and historically reviled activity, especially on these Puritan-influenced shores. Despite our national penchant for individualism, we're suspicious of anything that involves too much silence, solitude and closed doors.
It's one thing to delay reading gratification because you're busy with work or family or something else essential. But to claim you have no time to read or can't waste time on a book, and then spend two hours watching television or playing poker online or buying things you don't need at Target? I think we need to reorder our priorities and proudly spend more time alone, between the covers... of a good book. --Bethanne Patrick