Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mockingbird Acid Test

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in ninth grade. It has been my favorite book ever since. I'm a little freakishly loyal to it. If I read another book I really dig, I start feeling a little like a cheater. To Kill a Mockingbird is the epitome of literature to me. It broke my literary cherry when I was fourteen and henseforth my love for it will never cease.

Now the thing is, I work at a library. I don't just work at a library. I recommend books to readers at a library. It's my job to understand that reading tastes are subjective and deeply personal. So professionally, I don't judge someone for thinking TKaM is say, not action-packed enough or too realistic. But when my own husband says it, them's fightin' words. The little whirling dervish that is Scout inside of me wants to punch him right in the gut.

But before you go calling the authorities on me for domestic violence, remember, I don't hit. I write.

So yeah, Will doesn't like TKaM. Can you believe it? I simply can't wrap my head around that one. Even though I don't like to tinker on motorized vehicles, I understand why he likes to have his head under the hood of his old pickup. Even though I love oatmeal in my chocolate chip cookies, I understand he likes them better without. And I understand how he's too tired to bother to throw his dirty socks down the laundry shoot just as I know he understands I'm too tired to wash the dishes after I finish cooking dinner.

But I simply can't abide my own husband, the person who is supposed to get me better than anyone else on the planet, the person I most enjoy spending my time with, the person who knows me better than I know myself, not believing that To Kill a Mockingbird is the best novel written in human history.

Until he asked me to read his favorite book, The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.

Seriously? I mean, I get it. It's good. But the best book you've ever read? And you HAVE read To Kill a Mockingbird? Huh? Sorry, it just doesn't do it for me. Perhaps it's because I have never tripped on LSD and so it's difficult for me to get through the passages that are written through the perspective of someone with an altered state of reality. I understand it's a classic. I understand it's well written. If it had been written as a straight piece of narrative nonfiction from the perspective of the journalist author, I probably would have been fascinated by all the hippies and freethinkers of the time. But no. I couldn't even finish reading it. I got about half through and I felt like I was seeing chasers. It was giving me a contact high.

So yeah, I get it now. Will feels the same about socio-historical bildungsroman Southern Gothics that deal with issues of racisim, social problems and mental illness. The stuff that fills me with life and makes me feel feisty.

So the other night when I picked a fight with Will, I was forgetting that he's not me. I was forgetting that just because he understands me doesn't mean he understands all my interests. As do I of his.

I had suspected Will hadn't been reading my blog, but I felt too insecure to confront him about it. I had posted the first draft of my autobiographical novel, Mental Wellness, on my other blog and it took much prodding on my part to get him to read it.

Will said he doesn't like to read blogs, only printed manuscripts. So I printed the manuscript for him. The second draft, even, which is better than what's on my blog. And it sat there. He had recently gotten back into reading R. A. Salvatore and was flying through one of his series. He'd take Katie to her school skills class and wait for the hour long session. As they'd leave, I'd notice he held his Salvatore book under his arm as my manuscript sat lying where I put it the day I brought it home from the printer. He'd go to the coffee shop and wait for Katie's class to end, reading about fantasy heroes fighting fantasy villians somewhere along the time-space continum. But he had no interest in reading my work of realistic fiction about how heroes and villians exist only in fiction.

But I'd kiss him goodbye and half smile, knowing I'd do the same if it were me, only I'd have a Barbara Kingsolver novel under my arm while Feynman: The Graphic Novel would be laying there on the table where Will had left it for me to read.

When I picked a fight the other night, I accused Will of not supporting me by his apparant disinterest in my writing.

Which is ridiculous now that I think about it. I quit working full time so I could have more time to write and take care of our daughter. So Will is the breadwinner now, and willingly so. He seems to enjoy taking care of us, making sure we have a roof over our head and a car that starts. He does the dishes and cooks and sweeps and mops and takes Katie roller skating and to the zoo and to get ice cream so I have time to write. And realize, Will is an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. So extraneous compliments are not his style. And yet he's told me innumerable times how he thinks I'm such a great writer.

So yeah, of course my husband is supportive of my writing. Yawning at it is a reflex from his personal taste and not a critique of how it's written. Being bored by themes doesn't mean he's bored with me. He'd just prefer to rip through some fun space operas and altered-state mind expansion paperbacks while I click away on my laptop Midwestern Gothic manuscript and my blog rants about the current state of our nation and the state of my mind.