Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Weight: 6.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Do you want it? Otherwise, I am putting it in a book donation drop box.
This book got off to a slow start. The author was writing about how she will no longer keep reading a book if she does not like it, and I kept thinking it was a nod in my direction that I could put this one down. I started it on a lunch break from work, and I did not feel like I had relaxed at all when I was done. The only thing I could relate to was on page 4 and I did not feel that the sentiment described in a particularly beautiful way. Schwartz wrote, “Despite all this mental pirouetting, or maybe because of it, I don’t remember much of what I’ve read. My lifelong capacity for forgetting distresses me….while I struggle for the details, all I recall is the excitement of reading.” I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I was happy to stumble across someone struggling with the same thing.
Then, all of the sudden, I was on page 47, and I started to get into it. Schwartz got me going when she wrote about A Little Princess, a book I also loved as a child. I remember when I parents bought it for me I was furious. I hated princesses. Were they denying my tomboy identity? I was being a brat, but they kept asking me to give it a shot. I did, finally, and it was wonderful. After reading this section of the book, I went straight to my shelves to find my own copy of A Little Princess. I found it, and I am really looking forward to reading it again.
Later, she writes about McCullers, whom I love but also have not read since I was a teenager. Schwartz writes, “I’m afraid I’d feel certain dismay, like coming upon a photo of a great love of one’s youth with the eyes of middle age. Imagine pinning over that! Not that I’d find her books untrustworthy, just so oppressively young, so weighted by youth’s Gothic glooms, manias, and succulent indulgences” (90). How many times have I avoided a book for this reason?
Towards the end, on page 115, she questions, “So what has been the point? Not to amass knowledge, since I forget the contents of books. Certainly not to pass time, or ‘kill’ it, as some say. (Time will kill us).” I have been asking myself this for at least three years.
This book brushes up against interesting topics. How can you not when you are talking about books? I still found it to be mediocre. If you are looking for a good book about reading and books, I recommend looking into Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.