Textual Pleasure

There is a lot of reality tv out there and I watch the majority of it. Not really, but close enough. I don't watch any of those shows about storage lockers, animal hoarding, or kiddie porn (Toddlers and Tiaras anyone?). I like the Real Housewives series, Rock of Love in all its reincarnations, and Top Chef. I also read a fair amount. Many of my friends have told me this is a contradiction in terms. How can I read such wonderful, intellectual literature and also watch such vapid idiocy? Here's my secret: I love 'em both.

Reading has always been my favorite thing to do. I remember night after night curled up in bed with a good book, never sleeping until I had finished it. This happened more often than not in my tweens with a Stephen King novel followed by the unsurprising "Mom, I can't sleep, I'm scared". Books were easy for me. Good old fashioned fun. On the first day of school in fourth grade, I won a trophy for reading the most books over school vacation. Hence my being the most popular girl in school.

I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time when I was nine. When we read it in high school, I was chosen to teach the class since I'd read it dozens of times before. I revel in storytelling. When I found John Irving, he blew my mind. Those characters! Those locations! All the weird sex! Stories were amazing. They could transport me to magical places where anything could happen. Or they could make the most mundane, everyday things seem surreal and strange.

Needless to say, I became an English major. I can get a degree? For reading?! College opened my literary mind even further. After finally settling down at a small liberal arts school in Vermont, I was surrounded by fellow nerdy readers and I finally felt home. Here were other people who had relished books like I had, who had yearned for discussions about what they were reading. And my professors were people who had made careers out of their love of reading. Flabbergasted, I took as many English classes as I could. Science requirement? I'll get to it next semester.

My classes amused my parents to no end: "Boredom, Sincerity, and Artifice", "Viva Las Vegas", "Textual Pleasure". I learned to read everything in queer theory, which is still hilarious whenever anyone brings up The Great Gatsby. "Oh, that scene in the elevator when they're all 'pulling the levers'?" Pure joy. I wrote a paper on Moby Dick about the whiteness of the whale, breast milk, and semen. Not even stoned! My thesis was entitled "Hatred of the Female Body Caused by Debasing Sexual Experiences in Three Novels". When we had to present to the English department as well as our peers, I threw in as many dirty words as possible. It's exhilarating to say "hymen" and "fuck" in front of a crowd. Try it sometime.

Current novels I'm working my way through are "The Invention of Solitude" by Paul Auster, "Super Sad True Love Story" by the guy who wrote Absurdistan (Gary something or other, I should look this up), and "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. The last one has been at least a year because no one can physically read more than 15 pages at a time of Infinite Jest. Unless you're in the Decemberists and decide to make a music video from a scene in the book. Completely unpretentiously, I'm sure.

My name is Erin and I'm a reader. My mom claims that I taught myself to read, which is funny and then creepy when you think about it. But I plan on doing it until technology completely takes over and there is only Twitterspeak, 140 characters or less. What do you call them, twits?

Coming soon: Part 2 - Reality TV and Me


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