One day I was on the subway reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. For those of you who know it, the book is a beast, 1,100 pages give or take. So here I am, little low-life secretary girl reading a literary masterpiece. Two young men that looked like Investment Bankers saw me reading and the conversation between them went something like this:
Banker 1: Man that’s a big book
Banker 2: Nods
Banker 1: I can’t remember the last time I read a book (laughs)
Banker 2: I never read.
There was no shame in his voice, yet these are the people who make the six figures.
When I was 25 I was reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I was still little low-life secretary girl. I had placed the book on my desk and stepped away. Later my female boss Terri told me a comment my male boss made to her. That conversation went something like this:
George: Do you see what Liz is reading?
Terri: No, what?
George: She’s reading Anna Karenina.
George: I mean, wow, SHE is reading it.
Terri: What is the problem?
George: People like her can’t read stuff like that.
Well that comment angered Terri. Not to mention the sheer stupidity of it. Why can’t I read Tolstoy? It was an English translation after all, it wasn’t in Russian. It’s just a book, with words.
There are a lot of factors that play into this man’s perception. The Banker boys above didn’t seem to notice who I was, just that I was reading a book. The comment from George was either, racist, sexist, elitist or maybe all three or perhaps none of the above. My hunch it was one of the 3 listed. At the time this comment was made, I hadn’t finished college. I dipped my toe in, but didn’t get very far. Not that it matters, I learned to read as a child, so why wouldn’t I read as an adult. It was a dumb statement.
George would probably fall down if he knew I read Ulysses by Joyce or Remembrance of Things Past by Proust.
No one ever looked at me twice when I was reading Harry Potter, but if I was reading a book more difficult than “50 Shades of Stupid”, I was looked at in a peculiar way.
Some books that generate strange looks have been: Lord of the Rings, The House of Mirth, The Fountainhead and anything Star Trek (OK, this one I do understand).
Thank goodness e-readers have become the norm. Now, no one can see what I am reading. Although I do occasionally read a paper book, it isn’t often. Also, now that I am of a more mature age (and apparently look like a Professor) the looks have stopped, or maybe, I just don’t pay attention anymore.
It is sad that a lot of people don’t read. Recently one of my professors asked the class, “What was the last book that you read and when did you read it?” Besides myself, there was one other person in the class was currently reading a book. This was an adult class so everyone was over 21 years old.
Most of these students only read books that were required for their classes.
I used to be a non-reader. I went through spurts. As a child I read ravenously, by the time I got to age 13/14 and high school, I lost interest. 1) I found boys, 2) the books we were required to read in high school were OMG so boring. The Scarlet Letter — who cares!
Once I graduated highs school, and started working full-time, my reading picked up. I traveled on the subway and needed something to do. That lasted a few years until I had my son. As you might imagine, my free time was almost non-existent. And my subway reading time was replaced with subway sleeping time.
It picked up again when my son was older, but then I had another child and it dropped off again. My last spurt started in 2008 and has only accelerated. I don’t anticipate stopping.
If my eyes go, I’ll do audio.
If my ears go, I’ll learn Braille.