Never was a fan of them. Not as a child. Nor as an adult. Can’t say I even like the word, which brings to mind unpleasant tasks that no one wants to do. Sadly, they need to be done by someone, and when you’re a kid staring at those $1.25 comics you want to buy or the cool new Transformers you want, suddenly, you become a bit more willing to mow the lawn. Or wash dishes. Or clean the car. Or vacuum the living room. Willing, yes. Thrilled? Not so much.
Throughout my life, I’ve done a fair amount of chores, both as a child living with my parents and sister, as well as an adult living with roommates or extended family (as I am now). I still really don’t *like* doing chores, but as I’ve aged, I recognize that they need doing, and as someone who contributes to messes in the home, or who benefits from living in the residence, it is my job to contribute to maintenance. I’m fine with that (though I miss the days of being paid for doing them). It is what it is. There is one chore that I typically avoid, bc it is one that taxes me the most.
It’s not washing the dishes, cleaning my room, or folding clothes. It’s not even mowing the lawn (though this one comes close, as my aunt’s home sits on a huge plot of land, which I thankfully don’t have to mow any longer).
No, for me, this chore is wholly mental. It’s taxing bc of the amount of time it takes to complete. Depending on the length of time it takes to complete, it can take a week or even months. Hell, sometimes I’ve just given up and tossed the book to the side and never gone back to it.
You read that right: reading is a chore.
That may surprise some people, given my attention to the news and of course, my love of comic books. It may even seem like a paradox, but it isn’t. You see, reading is only a chore for me when it’s a work of fiction. In novel form. Comic books are a unique form of fiction, in that they combine prose with art to tell a sequential story. As for reading the news, well, let me explain the problem and then you may see why reading the news isn’t a chore at all.
Take a look at this excerpt from Ralph Ellison’s 1952 exploration of race and identity, Invisible Man:
One night I accidentally bumped into a man, and perhaps because of the near darkness he saw me and called me an insulting name. I sprang at him, seizing his coat lapels and demanded that he apologize. He was a tall blonde man, and as my face came close to his he looked insolently out of his blue eyes and cursed me, his breath hot in my face as he struggled. I pulled his chin down upon the crown of my head, butting him as I had seen the West Indians do, and I felt his flesh tear and the blood gush out, and I yelled, “Apologize! Apologize!” But he continued to curse and struggle, and I butted him again and again until he went down heavily, on his knees, profusely bleeding. I kicked him repeatedly, in a frenzy because he still uttered insults though his lips were frothy with blood. Oh yes, I kicked him! And in my outrage I got out my knife and prepared to slit his throat, right there beneath the lamplight in the deserted street, holding him in the collar with one hand, and opening the knife with my teeth – when it occurred to me that the man had not seen me, actually; that he, as far as he knew, was in the midst of a walking nightmare! And I stopped the blade, slicing the air as I pushed him away, letting him fall back to the street. I stared at him hard as the lights of a car stabbed through the darkness. He lay there, moaning on the asphalt; a man almost killed by a phantom. It unnerved me. I was both disgusted and ashamed. I was like a drunken man myself, wavering about on weakened legs. Then I was amused: Something in this man’s thick head had sprung out and beaten him within an inch of his life. I began to laugh at this crazy discovery. Would he have awakened at the point of death? Would Death himself have freed him for wakeful living? But I didn’t linger. I ran away into the dark, laughing so hard I feared I might rupture myself. The next day I saw his picture in the Daily News, beneath a caption stating that he had been “mugged.” Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!
Reading that, can you picture whats occurring? Can you form an image or images that reflect the actions of the protagonist? Can you picture the surroundings? Now, can you read it without doing that? Are you able to read the above without forming an image, of either the protagonist or his surroundings? Can you read about the beating he gave to the man and not visualize him being profusely kicked, or his mouth bleeding?
I can’t NOT picture that.
I think it was in the midst of reading a short story…wait…no. It was in the middle of reading George Matheson’s classic 1954 novel I Am Legend (which has had several film adaptations over the years, including the BOO HISS Will Smith version from several years ago which deviated far too much from the source material) that I discovered something that annoyed me. As Matheson described Neville’s surroundings, my mind immediately began to picture them. Every. Time. Whether it was a chair, a door, Neville’s room, it didn’t matter. I was constantly “building” the world in my mind. And the only way I could shut it off is to put the book down. The more detail, the more my mind would be trying to envision this world. On top of that, I found that I was trying to keep envisioning the world as I kept reading. Now, I liked that novel. Quite a lot. It wasn’t that big a chore to read it. But it also wasn’t that long a book. A few years after I read that book, I tried to read another sci-fi book, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I found the first four pages to be a chore. A huge chore. So much so that I put the book down and only went back once to read it again (didn’t get far that time either). All i recall was a man either waking up from a deep sleep, or being reborn after dying. He’d come to awareness in a room, and the first few pages spent a good deal of time describing who he was, what he looked like, and what the room looked like. It was so much detail and my brain was constantly trying to create, then recreate both him and his room that it was just annoying. And mentally taxing. I wanted my brain to stop, but it wouldn’t.
That was jafter ust a few pages. And like I said, I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. It’s not a light switch that I turn on and off. It happens on its own and its damned annoying, but I’ve learned to just avoid fiction novels (I’ve never read a biography, nor non-fiction, so I’m not certain how much a chore those would be). This is why reading the news is not difficult. My mind’s “Build-A-World” function doesn’t kick in.
As a result of this tendency of my mind (which I often wonder the origin of or if its related to reading comic books), it is a rare thing indeed when I’ll read a novel. In point of fact, it has been many years since I have. The last time I read a book (not a comic), was a few years ago, shortly before the movie World War Z came out. I recall bc I’d initially wanted to see the film, so I bought the book by Max Brooks (after it came out and I’d learned that it deviated from the source material significantly, I changed my mind about seeing it). I actually found that reading it wasn’t a huge chore. I realized then that shorter stories were less difficult to read, and since World War Z was essentially an anthology, the descriptions of the world were minimal, thus it wasn’t as taxing to read. Since then, I more or less stick to reading short stories or anthologies (when I choose to read books, which is rare).
There are times, however, when my interest is piqued, and I find myself wanting to read a fiction novel. That usually happens when the subject matter of the novel resonates with me on some level, which typically means it deals with issues of race, identity, or queerness. It also helps if the book has an interesting premise.
Variety has learned that the project is in very early development stages, and that no script has yet been written. Hulu earlier this year acquired the rights to develop a series based on the landmark 1952 novel, which is owned by the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust. John Callahan is serving as an executive producer on the project.
Winner of the National Book Award in 1953, “Invisible Man” is considered a classic of 20th century American literature. The novel is told from the perspective of an unnamed African-American narrator who considers himself to be socially invisible due to the color of his skin. The narrator recalls stories from his life — first growing up and attending college in the South, then migrating to and living in New York City.
The last two lines there hooked me The idea of a Black man feeling like he is invisible during the Jim Crow era? An era when Black men (Black people, in general) were far from invisible? I’m more than a little interested to see where Ellison took the concept. I’m also more than a little curious to know how Hulu will handle the property. I’ll have to wait on the series, but the novel shouldn’t be difficult to find. Hopefully its either not super detailed (if that excerpt above is any indication, it may not be), or if it is, it’s not a huge novel bc I really don’t need another chore in my life.