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My Reading Wife Is Not Reading Anymore!

Updated on June 11, 2019

A reader in a "readerless" society

I look upon my "reading wife" with some curiosity, and sometimes envy at the kind of novels she reads, and I don't mind telling you it is she who got me into the habit. She is the ultimate reader in our household, certainly among our extended family, and in our social environs.

I don't mean to be sexist but mine is a reading wife. She even encouraged me to read. She has no particular genre favorites, she focuses her eyes on anything and everything she can get her hands on. She is a strange one in developing her reading habits, since she is from an environ that is more interested in verbal communications and images rather than from that silent quirk one associates with reading.

She is an unrelenting reader in spite of the social ballyhoo that probably looks down upon people who read as "freaks" and anti-social though times are changing.

Reading is a global phenomenon, in Europe, the USA and Japan especially where everyone has his head in a good book, but this is not so in Jordan, or in the many different parts of the Arab world where I have also lived; but of course there are exceptions like Egypt and Lebanon.

I look upon my "reading wife" with some curiosity, and sometimes envy at the kind of novels she reads, and I don't mind telling you it is she who got me into the habit. She is the ultimate reader in our household, certainly among our extended family, and in our social environs.

This is because the reading culture or the book culture is not there to support her. She would almost munch through pages and myriads of words as in the example of Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth as if it is Turkish delight, oblivious to what is immediately going around.

She was socialized in a “readerless” society, but in books like Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie she has the tenacity to pick up novels that open her horizons and indulge in a literature taking her far from her roots of Arabic and Islamic traditions.

In between meandering with the house chores, taking the kids to and from school, cooking, cleaning, and taking them (and, occasionally, me) to doctors, she would always have a book in her hands no matter how boring or good it is, she makes it a point to finish it. The flow of her reading remains constant, a steady stream of picking at the words with her darting eyes.

She closes in on herself and finds, no creates, “reading time” to reading from anything like Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The 39 Steps by John Buchan. There is breadth in her reading, sometimes she might discuss with me, but most narratives, some that may wrongly be described as pulp, she leaves to herself.

She is putting all of us to shame, since words, pieces of writings, narratives is not on the hole in our blood, despite the fact our Holy Koran has instructed us it to read, and fathom knowledge to be able to understand different cultures because they are important part of the universe we live in.

She is a tease as well, considering herself as belonging to the highbrow, while we mere plebs have no inclinations to read and understand, preferring to be guided by our ipods, ipads, television, videos and film. When I shoot back that she too watches television, she replies that she is in favor of balance.

Despite this, she induced in me the pleasures of reading, I would at times force myself to turn the television off, or go to the bedroom, in order to flick the pages. By contrast however, hers is a balanced reading ‘diet’ which I would at times envy and slowly follow. Reading is a discipline, a mantle habit that is acquired and required.

She makes it a habit to read on the couch even while the kids are watching television, I have no idea of how she can actually become so consumed despite the noise. She reads in the bathroom at long and frequent bouts, reads in bed despite the fact that she hardly needs to be rocked to sleep late at night.

She started first reading in the 1980s when she came to England, with one of her first books being Spy Catcher by Peter Wright, after the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried to ban it. She decided to read the book because of the controversy surrounding it, due to the fact that certain officials said it compromised intelligence.

This was to be the beginning of a reading journey that took her to biographies, romance, fiction, thrillers and much more. Reading is a solitary, lonely, confining experience but for her a book like John Grisham's The Rainmaker , or The Partner was a delight, Stephen's Kings Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon kept her on her toes.

Because of the nature of our society, my wife's books' and readings never compromised her social commitments that stresses extended kinship.

She reads away from the prying eyes of her mother-in-low, my father, sister, and so on. Her reading is confined to our house.

Following Spy Catcher , she moved on to the works of the late Edward Said's including Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism , standard textbooks on post-colonial societies.

I bought the books to read one day, as I suppose many people do, but they ended up as decorations in what became an interesting English and Arabic book library. I complained I had no time to read, because of my other engagements. She would leave me to my complaints and keep reading quietly and flick through Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird , Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ian Rankin's Tooth & Nail .

As a housewife she is an ambidextrous reader, reading for knowledge, intellect, and sheer curiosity, to improve the agility of her brain and exercise her mind, and to simply enjoy herself, to relax, and lose herself in the beguiling narrative.

She was the one who taught me one can read books purely for enjoyment. It occurred to me then veteran readers start to accumulate “reading experiences,” becoming fluent in language and prose, which become essential when editing other people’s work.

My wife accumulated a rich reading experience, while her thought process became more methodical. Similarly, I felt my ideas, and the way I expressed them, were becoming more organized and systematic, as I read to improve the quality of my writing.


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