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The Curse of Knowledge

I used to love to read.

In grade school, reading was my preferred recess activity, far above four square, jumping rope, and doing flips on the jungle gym. By high school, I must have scaled up to a good four or five hours a day spent cracking open a book and just blissing out. I considered it more than a hobby; it was part of who I was.

But lately reading has become a rarer activity for me. And it’s easy to figure out why.

I know too much.

I’ve spent years thinking about, talking about, and analyzing the craft of storytelling from every possible angle. I can recount well-thought-out opinions about plot, character, scene, and structure. About beginnings and middles and ends. I can illustrate with examples from television, movies, and books. And I can make you believe me, because frankly, I know what I’m talking about.

And when I pick up a book, even if it’s just for fun, I can’t shut off that knowledge. If a character is flat or a scene is emotionally blah, I can’t help but notice. If the plot is a little hinky or predictable, I’ll notice that too.

And I guess, overall, I’m glad. Because it means I’ve learned a lot. But it does make reading a lot less fun. These days I bliss out on one in ten books, or maybe one in twenty. The rest… well, I enjoy them, but always from a rather clinical perspective.

I’m reminded of a anecdote from the very funny book The Last Catholic in America. The young narrator decides to give up, for Lent, a habit dearer to him than life itself: thumb sucking. Oh, how he loves to suck his thumb! Yet for forty long days he resists temptation. At last Easter arrives, and he can indulge to his heart’s delight.

But tragedy strikes. After a month of no thumb sucking, he discovers he simply doesn’t like it anymore. I’ll never forget the last line of that chapter:

By winning, I had lost.

3 Comments

  1. Alan Orloff wrote:

    Jane,

    I just discovered your blog. Nice.

    And I loved LAST CATHOLIC.

    Have you read the other two in the trilogy? I blogged about one of them a few weeks ago at: http://pattinase.blogspot.com/2009/05/fridays-forgotten-books-may-22-2009.html

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink
  2. Jane wrote:

    Haven't read them. I'll have to check them out.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 12:58 am | Permalink
  3. Kancha wrote:

    How do I get back to the old me?I really dont know what to do or ?How to relovse this, Your help or advice would be great. Please be sensitive as I am feeling quite low.Back in 2005 an abusive ex was arrested for beating up another woman, he was immediately given 15 months in prison (he did 9 months of the sentence) not only was I appalled at his actions, but it meant he had cheated/lied to me to have been with her. This was my que to have a fresh start. I was working at a gym, did an access to nursing course (worked very hard to study and have a job and manage my flat, finances etc) I also met a great guy that I worked with. I wrote to the bad guy in prison and told him I had moved on. For once I was happy. Me and the new man had a great few months, I was enjoying my studies, got in to an amazing nursing college, was happy and getting self esteem back and this new guy treated me great. In June 06, the toxic man was released from prison (I had ignored his calls and letter) he knew I was in a relationship. Yet, still turned up at my home un invited. He could see I was going places, was happy and had moved on. He was trying every trick in the book to win me back but I told him I was with someone and happy. He didnt listen. In Sept 06 he came to my home and violently raped me. I have had psychological counselling. But because of what he did I pushed the good guy away. I didnt even tell him what had happened as I was too ashamed. Eventually at some point in 2007 our relationship fizzled (down to me being down, unreliable and not myself). Yet, it was only in 2008 that I came forward to police about the rape and abuse as I was not ready to deal with it until then. I had left my University nursing course, I had depression and frankly my life was a mess (still is). The rape trial was due to be 22nd Feb this year, but due to police negligence (they lost one of my video statements) and a catalogue of errors the case was thrown out of court by the judge! Not only has this man destroyed my life and saw that I was moving on and happy and did what he could to ruin it, but he walks free from court for what he did. The nice guy has moved on and is engaged and happy, and I am left picking up the pieces of my life. The last 4 years have been sheer hell. I had a brief relationship in the summer and I am now 7 months pregnant, I just feel like my life is a total mess and dont know what to do to get back to my old self.I am currently in the process of suing the police but the injustice of all this is awful Please help, thanks

    Thursday, December 17, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

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