Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gabe Durham, On Reading

Every library with a Banned Books shelf knows that reading is best when it feels like a subversive act. A few weeks ago, I bought and read Nicholson Baker's The Fermata (the Vintage paperback with its innocuous, literal cover) while on a vacation with my wife and parents. It was privately funny to me to be reading such a raunchy book so secretly and yet so out in the open.

But the truth is, I'd have felt that way reading nearly any good book--I'd still get to relish my detachment. 'They all think I'm here with them--I'm not!' Maybe that's why reading at home alone so often puts me to sleep: There's no one there to bear witness to my secrecy.

I was still reading The Fermata on my trip home (my wife having flown back a few hours earlier), and at the airport gate I saw a woman reading a book that made all of us, the citizens of C-9, consider, if ever so briefly, that this comfily clothed women was a sexual being. The book, of course, was 50 Shades of Grey. I was pleased that my raunch was so much more obscure than hers, that her predilections were on display and mine remained in the darkness, that my book simply looked like a history of punctuation, the sort of thing a glasses-wearing skinny white guy would be reading, when it so surely was not.

Then it occurred to me that what I really wanted was for just a few members of my C-9 family be in on the joke, for them (men or women, best if a combination) to look at me in such a way as to have me understand that they knew exactly what I was up to. It is then that we would exchange grins I am nervously willing to describe as fiendish. But this did not happen, not even with one of them. And suddenly I felt very alone.

Gabe Durham is the author of Fun Camp, a novel forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. He lives in Northampton, MA and edits Dark Sky Magazine. For more information, visit his website at}