I have a little confession to make. Okay, maybe several related confessions. Or apologies. Depending on how you look at it.
See, several years ago, when I was an English major in college, totally immersed in literature courses and feeling like literature is the highest form of writing imaginable, my dad told me that he was reading only nonfiction at the time.
I felt betrayed! He was the man who owned so many novels that there was never enough shelf space (despite bookcases along an entire wall of the living room). He was the one who pulled Jane Eyre and Bridge of San Luis Rey and Les Miserables down for me when I finally swallowed my pride and asked him which classics I should start with. He was the one who had minored in English in college and taken creative writing classes. How could he possibly ABANDON the entire genre of fiction?
“I just feel like there’s so much I want to learn right now,” he told me, “that I don’t have time for novels.”
And as dumb and immature as it was, I sulked about it. No time for novels? What? I could understand certain qualifications, like no time for trashy novels or frivolous novels or so on, but what about literary novels — the kind that confront you with hard questions, complex scenarios, moral imperatives, renewed empathy for human frailty? How could he be like that?
And why did it bug me so much?
I think I was afraid. I’d looked to him as a role model so for long, aspiring to own and have read as many books as he did, that I worried what his sudden dismissal of them meant for my future. Would I eventually turn my back on literature, too?
Lately, it looks like the answer is yes.
“Curiosity . . . happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge. . . . Gaps cause pain. When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch that we need to scratch. To take away the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap.”
Until about five months ago, I wasn’t aware that I had such huge gaps in my understanding of the world. But once they were brought to my attention, it’s felt exactly like that pain described. I grab nonfiction books by the handful, and each one presents me with more information that I realize I don’t know, so I turn to more and more of them until the stack on my nightstand looks like a precariously tilting tower.
Here’s a sampling of books I’ve put on hold at the library, bought at used stores, indie stores, on Amazon, and poured through in the last five months. Um, what can I say? You might sense patterns in the topics, because this is where I realized I had huge gaps in my knowledge!
And now that I’ve realized how much I don’t know, I find myself quoting my dad: “I just feel like there’s so much I want to learn right now that I don’t have time for novels.”
Funny enough, Dad’s back into them. He’s even written a fiction manuscript of his own that I keep meaning to read, but this darn itch for nonfiction hasn’t been satisfied yet. There’s still so much I want to figure out . . .
Anybody else been through certain genre binges? Like you suddenly couldn’t get enough comics or romances or young adult vampire books or whatever? What did it feel like?