I have many bad habits: I always forget to take a coaster for my drink, my cd collection is rarely organized, I don’t know how to properly fold my laundry (and at this point I’m too afraid to ask) and I have a pile of books I started reading but stopped halfway through them. I do this more often that I care to admit. Right now, these are my half read books: Anna Karenina, Parade’s End, Morrissey’s Autobiography, The Chronicles of Narnia, War Horse, Ulysses and don’t even get me started on my Kindle collection (Gone Girl, Stardust, Atonement, Sense and Sensibility and many more). There’s a special sadness in the above photo, bookmarks sticking out of half-finished (or half-read, it all depends on your perspective) books, waiting to be read, waiting to find their purpose.
I never start reading a book thinking “I’m never going to finish you, but let’s enjoy the few chapters we have together!”. It just happens and I don’t know where it came from. It makes me sad to simply abandon a book, books were meant to be read, to inspire and entertain. I have this inside joke with my friend Adriana, she asks me “So, Anna, have you read Anna Karenina yet?”, to which I will reply “You know what, Adriana? MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO READ ANNA KARENINA, HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF THAT?”.
The truth is, I do want to read Anna Karenina, I do want to read Parade’s End, I want to reach that last page of each book. Why do I find it so hard to finish a book though? I guess it has to do with the fact that for the last six years I have trained myself to expect to get something more than just reading pleasure out of each book. I’m too afraid to keep reading Narnia, I don’t want to spend every page thinking “the religious analogy is so intense it makes me want to compile an annotated bibliography for the hypothetical paper I could write”. I don’t want to stain my beloved Morrissey with the remains of my academically obsessed nature. Morrissey is sacred to me and I want him to remain that way. When I read a book I want me to shut up and enjoy it.
Am I lost? To broaden the question, is reading ruined for every literature graduate? Do you really mean to tell me that the one think that used to bring me joy is now destroyed? When you find yourself out of academia and into the cold embrace of the hostile real world, you need to find the tools to recondition your life. You have to learn how to let things go. It will be hard, it will take time, but I want to believe that one day, one glorious day, I will be able to watch a movie and not analyse every single scene, I won’t see hidden phallic symbols that clearly point to a homoerotic subtext, I won’t torment myself over how obviously intentional everything is. One day I will be able to pause all my wild thoughts and actually enjoy a movie. I will read a book and won’t rip it apart in search of hidden meanings and metaphors. Reading needs to be fun again, because “there’s more to life than book you know, but not much more” as Morrissey would say.