It’s about the Odyssey’s Penelope and Odysseus: They’re vacationing for the Summer from the underworld, and instead of going home to Ithaca, Greece, they decide to visit Ithaca, New York. How quirky! They stay at Argos Inn in Room 214. On page 2, Penelope heads out to go work on her poems, which she does every day. “The fifteenth of August,” she thinks. “Our time here is almost done.”
If you, like me, are looking forward to some reading this summer, let’s embark on this ill-fated journey together. Will we achieve our reading goals? Almost certainly not. Will we still enjoy the act of resistance that is leisure in a society that values only productivity? We must — or perish.
Spring semesters have always had a rapid cadence but this year, March slipped straight to May and April was an immaterial haze. Perhaps my April was also marked by the exhaustion of four nearly back-to-back exhibitions in the Johnson Museum.
Back in ye olden days, I spent my afternoons maxing out the book limit at my local library and my evenings traveling to Oz or Narnia for hours at a time. The table by my bed perpetually labored under a precarious stack of novels that always seemed to grow higher. But soon enough, that library card spent more and more time inside some drawer or another before I eventually misplaced it. My nightstand heaved a sigh of relief as the pile of books dwindled to nothing.
Somewhere between sixth-grade’s The Giver (which I enjoyed) and twelfth-grade’s Hamlet (which I skimmed before the exam), I put down leisure reading for good. There was no more time for such things, I reasoned.
Or rather, I bet you won’t read this in its entirety. People don’t really read anymore — we hardly have the patience for it. It’s a clickbait culture, and we only have time for the headline. I’m not talking about purely literary reading, which is at a three-decade low according to the Washington Post, but also journalist efforts — news articles, op-eds, blogs. Recently, a friend sent me a somewhat comical article that connected psychopathic personality traits to the drinking of a common beverage, one she knew I enjoyed.
There’s nothing that compares to the sensation of opening a beautiful novel, of occupying an alternate world for 240 pages, of feeling depressingly connected to people who don’t even exist, of spending entire nights reading because you can’t bear to leave your characters in the night. This week, fellow columnist and former editor, Sean Doolittle ’16 wrote about the limited scope of the Arts section, citing music as our go-to topic. As this is my final column of the semester, I wanted nothing more than to speak about something else, to reflect my personal love of literature, and re-assert Sean’s opinion that art, in all forms, conventional or not, easy or demanding, should be appreciated. After an exhausting and mentally tasking day, most people just want to de-stress. This is where shitty TV comes in — it’s engaging enough to keep you watching, but it kind of feels like eating a bag of Doritos: simultaneously satisfying and sickening.