Diana left a book she was reading, The Girl Who Could Fly, open on our bed, and my husband picked it up. Paging through it, he found a discussion guide in the back. You know the type: Why does the the author…., What does it mean when…., When the main character….
He said (I think he was tired, and it dawned on him slowly), "Wait, it's a reading group guide."
"Yeah, Daddy. Pretty much all the books have them now."
"Yeah, isn't that sad?"
Here's the thing: I completely agree with her. Now, while I think that, I simultaneously think, "Oh, but I'm sure it helps a lot of people, and it probably makes it easier to talk about in the classroom, and it really encourages kids to get deeper into the story, and and and…." But which side of my simultaneously-thinking brain do I agree with? The part that thinks it's sad.
I know I have a ridiculously romantic view of reading, and that not everyone thrills to it the way I do. But to me reading is an amazing, legal, socially approved form of experiencing absolute pleasure. I can't quite believe something so excellent exists in daily life. And discussion questions? The equivalent of someone reciting instructions about eating berries while you're enjoying a strawberry. In short, a drag.
And I know that if I were a balanced, non-irritable person I would just ignore them. And I do, really. I mean, that's no law and all that says you have to look at the guide, it can just be there in the back without bothering anybody. But it does bother me, because, I guess, I'm not a balanced and non-irritable person. It's just that it makes the whole enterprise so academic somehow, and brings it that bit closer to earth. Which is the exact opposite direction I want to be going.