I love this gif of Belle from Beauty and the Beast, which showed up on my Tumblr under the headline: “When I’m really into a book and oblivious to everything else.” It made me think of two things, which will be the two subjects of this blog post, and those are:
1) There’s more than one way to be an avid reader, and
2) Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?
First things first.
There’s more than one way to be an avid reader.
People often talk about being “lost in a book” to the degree that they’re oblivious to the world around them, which to me sometimes gives the impression that if you’re not absorbed in reading to the degree that your house could be bombed and you’d fail to glance up from the page, you’re not a truly dedicated reader.
True confession: I have never been this kind of reader. I love books; I love to read, but I don’t get “lost” in books in this way. When I’m reading, I’m easily distracted by anything else that happens in the room or even in the next room. There are a lot of situations where I can’t and won’t read: I can’t read in a car or any moving vehicle; I find it hard to read outdoors unless conditions are absolutely perfect because I’m easily distracted by uncomfortable seating, wind, bugs, or sunlight striking the page at the wrong angle. Unlike Belle in this scene, I also cannot read while walking — that level of concentration on a book would be impossible for me. (In fact, it’s impossible for almost everyone who isn’t a cartoon character. In real life you very rarely see people reading while walking, which seems obvious, until you get to my point #2).
But that’s OK. It’s still pretty clear, if you look at how much I read and how much I love it, that I am a Compulsive Overreader. Just like I said in my last video that you don’t have to read the same books everyone else thinks are great if they’re not for you, you also don’t have to read in the same way that someone else reads, or someone else says you should read. Being oblivious to the world is not a prerequisite for being an avid reader.
Thinking about this reminds me of a funny story, though it’s not nearly as funny as some people think it is …
Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?
As almost everyone knows by now, what we think we remember may not be what actually happened. Two people can have different memories of the exact same event. Memories can be conflated and changed as a story gets retold over time.
One day when I was about eleven or twelve, I was at summer camp. I was always awkward and introverted at summer camp — introverted in my special, fun way where I get to sound really loudmouthed and confident while actually not feeling comfortable with anyone. And I wasn’t a good swimmer and I couldn’t water-ski at all, so the waterfront recreation time at camp was particularly tortuous for me. On this particular day I was amusing myself, very mildly, by trying to jump from one rock to another in the shallow water near the dock. Predictably, since my athletic skills were as poor as my social skills, I soon slipped and fell, fully clothed, into the water, eliciting some unkind laughter and a little sympathy as I dragged my sodden self back up to my cabin to change.