Read, Re-Read and Don’t Forget the Comics!

by Karen Amster-Young

What really knocks me out is a book, when you’re all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
The Catcher in the Rye

I know it sounds cliché, but one of the things on my “52” list is to read more. And I am not talking about books like “If You Give a Mom a Martini and similar titles (fun book by the way).  I am talking about re-reading or frankly just reading a “classic novel” or two.  You see, like my recent rant about my forced consumption of low-brow movies (check out my earlier post about this) and my determination to see quality films again, I was newly committed to actually read (re-read) a book or books that are defined as classic American novels.  And what better time than the end of summer?  For the record, I didn’t want to download the books on any device. I wanted to feel the pages and actually lug the books around if necessary.

I started thinking about reading and why there was so little time to do it anymore.  I just read in Real Simple magazine that remarkably the number of words we read has actually tripled from 1998 to 2008 and that the average person consumes (reads or hears) 100,500 words every day.   Of course, the startling increase is all attributed to our FaceBook and computer obsessed society.  But really, what the hell are we reading?  Other than an occasional good book (the amazing “Sarah’s Key” a few months ago which literally helped me survive a Disney trip) I am usually reading e-mails, FaceBook and text messages. Come to think of it, I don’t even read comic strips anymore (remember them?).  I used to love to glance quickly at Doonesbury and especially Cathy the funny strip from Cathy Guisewite that has run for decades.  I was bummed to read the other day it will be published for the last time in October. Cathy was amazing.  The strip always seemed relevant and chronicled Cathy’s ambitions, insecurities as a woman and life. Sadly though, our world doesn’t look to the paper anymore for comic strips.  We have our YouTube and other stuff and face it, we can watch Bethanny now for entertainment and full-fledged drama and angst right?

And then I thought about it. I wanted to revisit “angst” in fiction portrayed at different stages and ages and I wanted to do it with my 40-something eyes.  So I dug out my tattered copy of The Catcher in the Rye to take a look at Holden Caulfield again and his teenage angst (maybe a little tribute to Salinger who passed away earlier this year?); then I decided to finally really read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice rather than just watch it on DVD again (although Colin Firth is quite appealing). And lastly, I decided to throw in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (I was obsessed with the movie The Hours when it came out in 2002 and Virginia Woolf ‘s life overall).  I figured between Austen and Woolf there was definitely enough female passion and angst to go around.  And then, just out of respect, I was going to read Cathy again for a month or so.  I missed her and if there was anyone that still, to this day, showed us modern day angst for many women it was her.

So this week I remembered and rediscovered how amazing Salinger’s first novel was and how much we all related to Holden —  especially as teenagers. The importance of loyalty, the “phoniness” of adulthood, and duplicity all perfectly written about in this great little book. It brought me back to English class in High School and I liked re-reading it.  Of course I only just started Pride and Prejudice and Mrs. Dalloway is sitting right under the DVD I just rented (Date Night with Tina Fey), but I am on my way.

Women and reading. One article I came across said this:  “We found that men do not regard books as a constant companion to their life’s journey, as consolers or guides, as women do.  They read novels a bit like they read photography manuals. Women readers used much-loved books to support them through difficult times and emotional turbulence, and tended to employ them as metaphorical guides to behavior, or as support and inspiration.”  That says it perfectly in my opinion. I want to make sure I rekindle my love for reading, take time to read, read books I should have read and re-read books I don’t remember.  I will definitely report back on my success in a few weeks – probably about the same time that we bid farewell to Cathy. I am almost certain her last complaint will be about too much time on the computer and not enough reading  —  all while she fruitlessly tries to fit into a new pair of jeans for fall.

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