by Gene Goldfarb
First thing I must tell you is that you have to pick the book you want to read. You have to get passed the cover. For me it’s always a problem. I have to have a feeling that I’m about to consume something delicious or great. So I’m very picky. Not my wife. I like short books. Small investment of time if it stinks.. Also I wouldn’t have sunk in much psychic energy.
My wife usually contracts out her reading to me. Length of a book is irrelevant. She’s a serious person. So, curiously she confines her reading to fiction. Her non-fiction is almost exclusively newspapers and magazine articles. She will not tolerate serious reality reading for too long, it depresses her and she knows what she wants and needs no edification on gruesome tragedy or quotidian depravity. Only exception to serious matter for her is spy novels, and Agatha Christie murders. When she seems to have the time and is aware that I’m going to the library, she suggests I get out a book for her. If I ask her whether there’s any book or title she wants, she always says, “get me something interesting.” When I follow up in exasperation, about something more specific, typically says, “You know, something I’d like,” so you can see there’s no point in asking. The best I can do in this situation is to remember to pick up three books for her, nothing too way out. So one time I picked a Belva Plain, a Sidney Sheldon, and an Ian Trevanian. And she could suit herself. It was like winning a trial by picking a jury where you couldn’t lose unless you personally attacked every member.
There is one clue that you may come upon in my wife’s reading. If the ending is happy or at least not gruesome, she will tell you “Get me another book by that guy who wrote the last one I read.” And that will be a fantastic time saver. Hopefully, you’ve found that Holy Grail of what your wife likes, potato chip heaven, until you run out of potato chips or the author is a one-hit wonder, or only had very limited success.
Once my wife starts a book she attacks it with rare diligence, reading on and on for several hours at a time. It’s at times like these I have to admire her, and remember not to wait for apologies about when supper will be ready. Rather, I confine myself to the prospect that I will have to cook for myself or just fix a sandwich and maybe warm up a soup in the microwave, and be happy with that.
She is such a neat person, but regularly dog-ears the book she’s reading as a bookmark. I can’t stand it because it’s a loan from the library, and I like to return things I’ve used with a minimum of wear and tear. Look, I’m no angel. I like to read a book in the bath, and have warped my share of tomes, till I finally stopped after causing too much damage. But that’s a whole other story.
Once she finishes a book she doesn’t review it for me so much as tell me I can take it back to the library and to get out another one. If I ask her what she thought, all she says is that she liked it. If she doesn’t like it she usually doesn’t finish it. If I read it despite her putting it down she asks how I was able to read it; it’s usually a rhetorical question. I still answer her, trying to point out that the book was indeed boring to a point, but picked up after page 50 or so and had some great insights.
She’s her own editor. She made it through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series by skipping the elf songs. In her opinion they were too boring and didn’t advance the plot or the action. It made me realize how “business” she was. If things went bad in a real business situation, according to her the owner was an incompetent, or he had too many family members on the payroll, or exclusive of the other two, it was just a case of bad luck.
You wouldn’t want her in your book club. Then again, she would have quit before being asked.
About the author
Gene Goldfarb lives on Long Island, writes short fiction,essays and
poetry, loves reading, international cuisine, and movies of all kind.
His fiction has appeared in Bull & Cross, Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight,
Fallow Ground, Adelaide and Cafe Lit.