The other night, I found myself bored while watching my boyfriend play video games and decided that I would read out loud from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, a phenomenal collection. I can’t verify that my boyfriend actually listened to any of the stories, or if he could even hear them through the sounds of virtual reality machine gun fire, but I read on anyway, letting the words flow from my mouth in a very therapeutic way. Reading aloud, although maybe a little archaic, creates a whole different experience when reading a story. I’ve found that I very much like reading aloud, Hemingway’s stories especially, because it lends itself to the drama and emotion of a story in a way that doesn’t come through reading to oneself.
I love Hemingway’s stories because most of them deal with very intense subject matter but all within 3-4 pages, if that. Probably my favorite of his stories is called “A Day’s Wait”, which I ironically forget the name of almost every time I go to read it. The story, lasting only about 2 1/2 pages, is about a boy who believes he is dying because he has a very high fever. As the boy prepares for death, his confused father explains to him that he’s fine, and at the end the boy comes to realize that he had confused celcius and farenheit and that his fever was not life threatening after all. It is probably one of the most simple premises for a story that I have ever encountered, yet so extremely profound. As a child, and even today, I suffer from pretty extreme anxiety and slight hypochondria. At the age of 5 (or maybe 6) my grandmother once told me that sugar was bad for me; for the following six months, I refused to eat anything with sugar because I was convinced it would kill me. Hemingway so perfectly captures the mind of a child in this story, and every time I read it I feel that connection with my own strange, childish mind.
As I read on to a few of my other favorites, I began to think about my life. I longed for the days when I read and thought about stories every single day while I was studying English in college, and I felt like my life no longer made sense without that. I thought about how these stories, so profound and life changing, were only a few pages, and how easily I could write my own stories (albeit never with the mastery of Mr. Hemingway). In sharing this little anecdote I am trying to emphasize the meaning that reading brings to life. The way I feel after I read a good story or a good book, is a feeling that I don’t believe will ever be duplicated in any other walk of life. It’s an intensely personal, emotional and reflective process that is experienced differently by every person. When people ask me what I plan to do with an English major or when they poke fun at the not-so-bright financial future of English majors, I don’t think they have ever felt that feeling that comes through reading. Some people may never feel it, may never feel devastated, elated, angry, or whatever emotion that a book or story brings, and in all honesty, I feel bad for them, because books have changed my life.
English majors may be known for having their head in the clouds, but I don’t see the problem with that. My life has been enriched in so many ways from my relationship with books. And yes, it is a relationship. Within the pages of a book you may find your friends, your lovers, and your enemies all at once. Think about the relationship people have with Jesus Christ and the Bible, no one ever found that one strange, did they?
All I have to say is, I think I was meant to encourage people to form this relationship with books. I currently work with elementary aged kids and am constantly trying to teach this connection and relationship that I found has shaped and influenced my life so greatly. And I leave you with a quote from Mr. Hemingway himself, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.”