I’m a busy woman. This weekend alone, I ran up a hill four times, vomited in a park, visited a baby, terrorized a baby, chased a duck and had three baths. I visited people and was visited. I cleaned a fridge. Did three loads of laundry (t’was the same load three times because I forgot to hang it out). I notionally read some work emails whilst gnawing on the remains of an Easter Egg. I recited an ANZAC day poem to some drunk non-Antipodeans. I spent 20 quid in Marks and Spencer buying only discount items, resulting in a dinner of goats cheese, salmon pate and gluten-free Percy Pigs.
Once upon a time, I was a voracious reader. As a kid, I read 2 or 3 books a night and then shoved them to the bottom of my bed with my feet. As I kid, I woke up 3 or 4 times in the night, convinced that I was being attacked, only to find 3 or 4 kilograms of Enid Blyton had clunked to the floor. I studied English at university and was reading at least 2 books a week, wending my way through In Cold Blood whilst trying to remember why I’d taped a $5 note to my own bottom.
Then work hits. Reality hits. If I’m being honest, the internet hit. And suddenly the time I spent reading was spent trawling blogs, composing elaborate (unsent) letters of resignation and looking at pictures of babies on the internet.
I’m a member of a Book Club, a wonderful Book Club, who this month made the collectively insane decision to embark upon reading The Luminaries. If you haven’t seen The Luminaries, just imagine a house with a fancy book jacket. Imagine your front stairs. Imagine every book you read in the last three years haphazardly glued together. Imagine your own life transcribed into a book, then lengthen it by 800 pages and make it more interesting. That’s The Luminaries. Setting aside my own ill-concealed disgust at the fact that the author is from my own country, is my own age, went to my own university and is now the youngest-ever Booker Prize winner, my main beef with this book is how goddamn difficult it is to slot into the empty spaces in my life.
Because where do I read now? Not in bed before I sleep, like times of yore, because I’m too busy reading up on the life of Bronnie, an Australian I’ve never met, because her cat just died.
No, I read on public transport and in the bath and on the toilet, almost exclusively (you might think that that would not be conducive to a lot of book reading, but you don’t live my life). The Luminaries, though, defies my lifestyle. An attempt to read it in the bathtub led to a near drowning and a tidal wave. Carrying it on public transport seems risible – not only is it so large that any bag that could comfortably contain both the book AND everything I need to live my highly glamorous life would essentially be a one-bedroomed flat with a handle; but the looks I get when I pull it out are damning. Oh reading that, they say, of course you are. Not fishing for literate young gentleman with an eye for fonts and complicated plots involving Hokitika whores, are you? I don’t need that kind of judgment in my life. As for reading it on the toilet – no. I have one toilet book, it is 50 Shades of Grey, because one kind of shit leads easily to another kind of shit. Disengage brain, engage sphincter. It’s just science.
So when do I read it, this Kiwi tome, this literary luggage? I’m not exactly sure. I’m not allowed to attend Book Club if I haven’t finished it. Tell me, readers, when do you read? How do you have time to read this? Shouldn’t you be reading something more fulfilling? I recommend The Luminaries, but only if you don’t have a job or any friends, or hair that is time-consuming to blow-dry.