English Major Confessions: Reading

I sat crouched over Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, so enveloped by the story that I could hear the sounds of the jungle. The story became real and visceral to me, so much so that to this day I’m still haunted by the images I read. I was in sixth grade and back then it took only a few sentences for a novel to hook me. After that, the world materialized in my mind and reading was almost like a film being projected in my brain. Just as the dilophosaurus was about to attack, my study hall teacher made a rather loud announcement that caught me so off guard I jumped out of my chair and nearly fell to the ground. She looked at me and said, “Are we okay, Mr. Athay?” I nodded to stave off further embarrassment. In middle school I devoured books. I read nearly all of Crichton’s novels, then moved on to Mary Higgins Clark, Christopher Pike, Dixon’s Hardy Boys books,  as well as R.L. Stine’s high-school-centric Fear Street series. My love of books followed me into college and I declared myself an English major, but here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn. Throughout high school, my recreational reading slowed and by the time I’d gotten into college, it was essentially nonexistent. Further, and perhaps my most grievous literary crime according to my wife, after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in literature, I’ve read nearly no classics.

This isn’t something I set out to do, but was a result of my schooling. My high school English courses strayed from traditional readings for reasons of which I am unaware. The only books I remember learning were Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. My freshman lit teacher thought it better to show us two film versions of Romeo & Juliet rather than have us actually read the play. Any other English courses I took tended to focus grammar and writing, and, if stories were taught, they were done so from a textbook. By the time I’d gotten to college, most of my instructors wanted to teach something modern or they assumed we’d gotten the classics from our high school classes.

Of course, my wife often reminds me that I could have read them on my own, but I’m going to be straight up honest for a moment: Most classics bore me to sleep. There, I said it. I feel so liberated. It would be great if I could revel in Mark Twain or Herman Melville, if I could sigh with romantic nostalgia when I heard mention of the Jane Austen, but sadly, I cannot. Any attempts I make to read these are often foiled by my sleepiness or plain and simple disinterest. Even modern authors like Faulkner and Hemingway often prove difficult for me to get through. Instead, I turn to bizarre writers like Chuck Palahniuk and Torsten Krol whose story construct is like that of a spiral. One event leads to another until the entire novel is one big hot mess of chaos. Sure, it’s no Shakespeare, but at least it keeps me up at night.

When I was in college and the lead-in question when meeting something was, What’s your major? I was often mistook as someone who loved reading. And I do, but I’m in no way prolific. In the past 3 years, I’ve only read about 33 books and started another five without finishing. The sad thing is, I’ll buy books while still having other books to read simply because I love having them around. I revel in a full bookshelf. Part of why I don’t read is because I write. Much of my free time throughout the day is sketching out ideas for stories or working on them. But another big part of it is that I’m straight up lazy.

Sure, I could read, or I could play Civilization V, which involves much less brain activity. But the first step to solving a problem is knowing it’s there, and since I have a history of being too lazy to read, I’d say I’m fully aware of it. The next step, though, is the difficult one. I mean, the French and the Aztecs have become an alliance and they’ve closed off their borders. I need gold if I want my economy to improve, but the Franco-Aztec alliance won’t share their resources. I can’t just pick up a book and do some light reading when I’ve got a foreign affairs dilemma that holds the economic survivability of my country in the balance.

Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.

2 thoughts on “English Major Confessions: Reading

  1. Hi there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog
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