Reading as Distressing Favor

I’ve long since realized that I have a finite amount of time on this planet– and so I’m picky about how I spend that tiny span. With so many fantastic books out there, for example, I truly begrudge the minutes and/or hours spent on less-than-stellar literature. This brand of curmudgeonliness, if that’s what it is, makes it difficult for me to follow up on earnest recommendations from people I love, but whose tastes in the written word don’t jibe with my own.* The problem becomes especially vexing when someone goes beyond a mere, “Hey check out X,” and gives you a copy of whatever it is is supposed to blow you away.

Only two times in my life have I gotten a dose of comeuppance in such a situation. A boss of mine once forcibly loaned me her copy of Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone— and I’ll have to say, after almost fifteen years after the fact, I still review some of the novel’s scenes in my head, and marvel at the fact that a man wrote such a believable female character. Then there was the time a young swain got so sick of my putting off his attempts to get me to read Harry Potter that he bought the first two volumes for me, knowing the expenditure of cash on my behalf would at least guilt me into reading them. While that particular idyll crashed and burned for about a thousand reasons, I’ll admit to being eternally grateful for that bit of literary education that happened thanks to a boy.

But I’ll set those memorable exceptions aside to announce that I’ve recently finished another unsolicited volume that does nothing to help me figure out how to navigate such situations. Offered as a helping hand for my “spiritual journey,” the memoir I just read did nothing for me one way or the other, with the exception of raising ugly thoughts in my head about people’s credulity and the tendency to fall back on the comforts of superstition. I’ve no idea how to convey my opinions about this volume to the person who bought it for me, since said individual was profoundly and positively affected by it. After all, I don’t want to seem ungrateful; how could I disparage what comes down to anyone’s attempt to express care and concern for my well-being, especially by way of an activity– reading– that can claim a solid chunk of credit for keeping me sane?

I’ll figure out, one way or another, how to handle this particular situation; after all, shouldn’t one of the outcomes of reading be honest conversation? Oh, the delicate task of negotiating the maze of individual preferences…


* This uneasiness doesn’t occur with fellow readers whose tastes do tend to fall in line with my own.


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