Have you ever been secretly intimidated by a piece of literature?
And I don’t mean “secretly” as in being intimidated but not admitting it to your book club, I mean “secretly” as in being in denial about it. You keep meaning to read something, let’s say A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You know you should read Shakespeare because he is the father of modern theatre and the English language as we know it. You know you should read this particular play because it is a staple of theatre companies everywhere. It’s a comedy with lots of fun elements- no heavy-hearted Othello or Lear. Maybe you’ve heard of some of the characters before; Puck, the lovers Hermia, Helen, Demetrius or Lysander, Oberon, Titania. Or maybe you’re even a Greek history buff and want to read another take on the Theseus/Hypolyta story.
But for some reason, some reason unbeknownst to yourself, some ethereal reason that you can’t put your finger on, you just never read this particular work of literature. Even though you should. Even though culture tells you to. Even though your better sense tells you to. You may page through the book every time you pass it in the bookstore. You may even go so far as to purchase the volume. But, despite the piece beckoning you, you just don’t do it.
That’s been my relationship with The Handmaid’s Tale for the past week. I was supposed to be on a strict fifty-page-a-day regime over the winter break before the craziness of my jam-packed semester started. However, the holidays hit and I took some time off. Then it became “Oh, I’ll read it tomorrow”. And that’s gone on since I finished Heart of Darkness.
I don’t know what it is about this book. It’s a friendly book. Not too thick. If I put my mind to it, it’ll be finished in a matter of a few days. The subject matter doesn’t seem too terribly dry, the language isn’t dense or archaic, the story is renowned and well-written… there shouldn’t be anything stopping me from picking up this book and giving it the good ol’ Graduate School try. Somehow though, I’ve been finding ways to push dear Meg from my schedule day after day.
Well, I can no longer hide from her. I have a week before I begin my position TAing over winter break, and that means only seven days of unadulterated literature with nominal other demands upon my time.
There’s no more hiding, running or avoiding. There’s no more calling apologetically and promising to reschedule. There’s no more setting her up with a friend hoping that she likes him better than she likes me because I can’t stand to see the look on her face when I miss our appointed coffee meetings together. Tomorrow I have a date with Margaret Atwood.