Mindy Newell: Reading Is Fundamental
Dorothy: What kind of a horse is that? I’ve never seen a horse like that before!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: And never will again, I fancy. There’s only one of him and he’s it. He’s the Horse of a Different Color you’ve heard tell about.
—The Wizard of Oz, 1939
I love to read. I read every chance I get, including always bringing a book with me to read on my lunch hour.
I don’t get people who don’t read.
They make me crazed.
The other day when I came into the lounge, I noticed that someone had left three books in the lounge; a couple of bodice rippers, and [[[A Thousand Splendid Suns]]] by Khaled Hosseini, whose first book was [[[The Kite Runner]]]. Both of Hosseini’s books reflect his Afghani childhood and heritage, and both are equally brilliant, though I think that Suns is the more difficult of the two to read because it is just so heart-rending—and because of that rending of the heart, it leaves an even deeper impression upon the soul of reader than does Runner.
“Wow,” I said to my co-workers who were also at lunch, “A Thousand Splendid Suns! That is such a great book! Who brought this in?”
See, I get excited about books, and I love talking with people who feel the same way, and I wanted to find the owner of SUNS and talk to him or her about it.
“I dunno,” said one person, obviously not interested.
“The books were there when I came in this morning,” said another.
It was clear to me that nobody cared. The other 10 people or so in the room just kept talking bullshit and or watching that TV court show with Judge Alex, or maybe it was Family Feud with Steve Harvey.
I kept trying.
“Oh my God, that is such a great book!” I said again. “You have to read it!” This was to nobody in particular, but I was still hoping for a response.
Someone looked up and said, “I tried reading it, but it was too disturbing, I couldn’t get past the first chapter.”
“I know, it is brutal in a lot of ways, but it’s so honest and beautiful,” I said, still trying what I knew was a losing game. “You really should finish it.”
“I can’t read things like that. I like happy endings.”
You know there are other things to read besides Star Magazine and Kohl’s flyers, I wanted to say. There are other things to watch on TV besides General Hospital and Divorce Court. Do you know that you are now officially living in a fascist state because of the Supreme Court’s decision this week? Are you even aware of the Supreme Court?
But I didn’t. I learned a long time ago that nursing can be HEATHERS AFTER HIGH SCHOOL school, it can be MEAN GIRLS GO TO WORK, it can be dangerous to stray too far from the madd(en)ing crowd…
So I didn’t pursue the conversation.
Look, I’m not saying I don’t read the tabloids—I love stories about Kate and Will, (I don’t know why) and for some odd reason I felt sad when I read that Gwyneth and Chris were having a “conscious uncoupling” (which sounds nice in theory, and I hope it works for them, but having gone down that particular river, I doubt very much there hasn’t been a few screaming matches and ugly name-calling rows)—and I watch Family Feud and laugh with Steve Harvey, and I readily admit that I was hooked on General Hospital back when it was all about Luke and Laura and Holly and Robert Scorpio and Demi Moore was on the show playing reporter Jackie Templeton and Elizabeth Taylor had a recurring role as Helena Cassadine, the matriarch of one of the most evil families to ever have been on television. (Just for the hell of it, I just looked up General Hospital on Wikepedia, and the actors who have appeared on the show is a “who’s who” of music, film and television. including Daniel J. Travanti, Shirley Jones, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tyne Daly, James Franco, B.B. King, and Lou Rawls, plus three names near and dear to all science fiction and fantasy geeks—Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, and Billy Dee Williams.)
But it’s hard to be the “different” one, to be the lemming that wants to go left when all the other lemmings are turning right.
The other day I had a patient whose name was the same as the protagonist of a classic science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, the one about a human being who was raised on Mars and is then returned to Earth. I didn’t ask the patient, but as the case proceeded I wondered to myself if his mother had read the book and had named him after the hero.
Only I said it out just loud enough for the surgeon to “catch” something.
The surgeon looked at me.
“Whaddya say?” he said.
“It’s a book. By Robert Heinlein. He’s got the same name as the main character, and I was just wondering if his mother was a fan of the book and that’s why she named him that.” I named the book. “It’s a classic.”
“Never heard of it.”
“It’s science fiction. But it’s also about society and the rules of society and the roles of men and women and religion and conformity and nonconformity. It’s considered a classic.”
He just looked at me as if I was the one from Mars.
Yeah, sometimes I wish I were that old gray mare instead of a horse of a different color.
But I love to read.
Photo by martinak15