Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should Have Read It Sooner

I understand my students' reluctance sometimes to read assigned books--at least some of them, the ones like me who have plenty to read without having to feel obliged to read someone else's selections as well.  I confess now that I didn't finish reading The Scarlet Letter in the eleventh grade until after the test. (I'm sorry, Mrs. Williams).

Often, I get my best recommendations from my reading friends.  I've tried to quit taking the actual book though.  Borrowed books too often become my own property by common law (considering that old dictum that possession is nine-tenths of the law). They also inspire guilt when I haven't read them yet (and the giver keeps asking) or dishonesty (when I feel obliged to claim I did.)

Often enough that I should have learned from it, I finally get around to a much recommended book and think, "What took me so long?" This was certainly the case with Watership Down, which was, I learned, so much more than "just a book about rabbits."  When the high praise comes from many quarters, I should pay even more attention. I know those readers who know me best.  I know whom I trust.

Why, then, am I just now reading A Prayer for Owen Meany?  I'm only half way through the book, and already, I am itching to talk about it with someone, anyone who's willing to discuss it.  The book defies description; Owen Meany defies description, and yet he is as real to me as any student sitting in my classes.  I've even seen the movie Simon Birch, based on the novel, and I still firmly believe that I cheated myself until I actually read it.

Interesting to me is that I know some of the main plot highlights (particularly the death of the narrator's mother, hit in the head--improbably--by a baseball hit by the strange and diminuative Owen.  That even not only isn't wrapped in suspense, but it is a recurring motif in the relationship between the two friends, Owen and Johnny--and everyone they know.

In many ways, the spiritual aspects of the book are most interesting, although they bear no likeness to any other book I have read that I considered a spiritual book.  I also find myself laughing out loud as I read more often than usual.  I want to stop and read certain passages to anyone who'll stop and listen. I may even harbor a secret urge to pick up Owen and pass him around the room, this boy who can play the Christ child and the Ghost of Christmases to come in the same holiday season.

Most importantly, I may have to revisit my shelves to see which books remain there on long-term loan from well-meaning friends, waiting for me to rediscover them--for the first time.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow, did this post ever resonate with me!
I was the reluctant reader of Watership Down in a required reading situation & have relayed the story of its impact on me to so many readers who are searching for a book to read.
Owen Meany was in a similar status until a colleague friend of mine raved about its greatness. Now I will be sure to read it!