Sunday, July 20, 2008

Family Reunion & Book Prison

I just returned from one of the most pain-free family reunions ever. No big drama. No bad fights. No nasty sunburns. No lice. Just lots of swimming and eating and hanging out and lots and lots of reading. Margaret's house really is magical. I swear we only left the place to periodically restock the freezer with icecream.

The best barometer for me of a vacation is how many books I got to read. In four days I read two good sized books. In my daily life, I have to work hard to read. It means staying up late and paying for it the next day, or trying to get the kids occupied enough for me to sneak away and devour a chapter or two before the next diaper change. This is tough when you're reading a novel that puts you in "Book Prison." You know what I mean. There are some books that suck you in and try as you may, you can't extract yourself until you're done. Several years ago Dave & I went to Hawaii and I brought along The DeVinci Code. At one point when we were going to dinner, Dave just sent us along without him as he sat in a parked car reading.

Harry Potter books do that to me. Last summer when the final book came out, my fellow Potterheads Jen and Coco decided we would kill our families if we tried to read the book with our kids bugging us ("Mom, it's noon. Shouldn't we have breakfast?" "Mom, I think my arm is broken. Mom? MOM!") so we rented a hotel room and quarentined ourselves. This also protected us from those irritating people who feel compelled to spoil things for others. Some dumb teenagers blurted out about Dumbelore's fate at church when I was only half way thru number 6.

Last summer I was also incarcerated while reading those fun Stephenie Meyer Vampire books. I sent the first to my 15 year old niece Kate for Christmas. Apparently, the day before the reunion when she knew she'd be seeing me, she felt guilty for not having read it so she started it...and read until 3am when my brother made her go to bed. So until she finished it, she barely showed her face. Meanwhile, my sister & I reread our copies of Twilight since the fourth and final one comes out next month. And my sister-in-law Lisa was tied to her copy of New Moon*.

The second night of the reunion, once the kids were in bed, we all found our way to the living room and instead of playing a game, watching a movie or talking, all of us still awake were reading. It made me so happy to be part of such a bookish family. And it's a variety of books. Lee usually has something on African phonology, Dave had a Marine memoir, my mom a British mystery. We aren't book snobs. If books were cheese, we devour Monterey and Muenster, Velveta and Valencay. This freaks some people out.

Last summer I was talking to a very smart acquaintance about books. She mentioned certain French feminist stuff and I chimed in as I read a lot of that in grad school and found Kristeva very compelling. I had my "smart Heather" cap on. So I could see her debating something in her head, sizing up my intellectual cojones. She leaned in and in sotto voice she told me about her "very exclusive" book group and would I like to join. She mentioned several texts they'd be reading and I nodded, familiar with most of them. Worthwhile books all. And I had a split second internal debate. While I have the grey matter necessary to discuss erudite crap, I just don't have the energy for it at this point. And if I do want to change my fancy pants for smarty pants, I don't want to have to expend all that mental energy reading something someone else chose so that I can feel "intellectual." In many ways I view my masters degree in English as my permission slip to subscribe to TV Guide. I'm smart enough, and I don't have to prove it to anybody anymore. That's a good thing. But I like this woman and if I didn't spend my days wiping counters, mouths, and butts we'd probably have lots in common. I do not want to offend her by declining her generous invitation, so I realize I need to just let it all hang out and make her run from me. Screaming. I know just what to do. "Oh, I love book groups. What do you think the chances are of us reading those Mormon Vampire books? They are so awesome! Edward, the vegetarian vampire, is so HOT! I'm leading the discussion in my ward bookgroup on Twilight this month." She backs away in horror, as if I have fangs and am about to bite her neck. "Sounds like you have a lot on your plate, so if you can't make it, I'll understand." She smiles politely, hand to her throat and flees. I felt bad, but right at this point in my life, I need my books lite. In March I read The Ministry of Special Cases and almost had to medicate myself afterwards. I'm still haunted.

Tonite Dave let me know that he secured a hotel for me and Coco & Sande (we'll be thinking of you Becca...). It's a Courtyard with an outdoor pool that he got using frequent sleeper miles or whatever. This way we can get tan AND get our Vampire on. We'll be there on August 2 when Breaking Dawn comes out. Will Bella stay with Edward or go with werewolf Jacob? Will she become a vampire? Don't bother calling. They don't allow phones in Book Prison.
*(go to for the best new moon parody--I'm a dork but that doesn't mean I can't laugh at myself. Or go this one which rocks because he's such a better Edward than that dork Cedric Diggory guy)


Kerry said...

I am so jealous! I wish I could join you for the "Breaking Dawn" vacation. I can't wait for it to come out!!!!

belmomma said...

awww crap! I"m away again for girl power book reading!!!!!
Everyone's gotta have a little 'fluff' with their 'nutter'!

janeannechovy said...

You've got to come out and go to the Sylvia Beach Hotel with me!

Anne said...

I love your comparison of literature to cheese.

I've spent a lifetime reading. Reading to avoid housework, reading to escape, reading to relax. But I'm in a reading funk at the moment -- well, that's probably a 5 year "moment." I just can't engage in literature (velveta or blue cheese) the way I used to be able to. The last HP book is an exception. I was supposed to be preparing a Sunday School lesson that Saturday morning when the last book arrived. I started by saying "I'll just read the first chapter." Right. Now I get books from the library or from Amazaon, read the first chapter or two and get bored or distracted or whatever. Thanks for mentioning a couple you like. I'll check them out.

Maybe I can blame this on menopause?

Withawhy said...

I want to go to book prison!

aunt sue said...

The Jacob character, on the second video, is Quay's brother from "Stop Loss". That is a much better cast than the real movie.