Saturday, October 15, 2005


Are you, or have you ever been, a Literature Abuser?
Literature Abuse: How many of these apply to you?
1. I have read fiction when I was depressed or to cheer myself up.
2. I have gone on reading binges of an entire book or more in a day.
3. I read rapidly, often "gulping" chapters.
4. I have sometimes read early in the morning or before work.
5. I have hidden books in different places to sneak a chapter without being seen.
6. Sometimes I avoid friends or family obligations in order to read novels.
7. Sometimes I rewrite film or television dialog as the characters speak.
8. I am unable to enjoy myself with others unless there is a book nearby.
9. At a party, I will often slip off unnoticed to read.
10. Reading has made me seek haunts and companions that I would otherwise avoid.
11. I have neglected personal hygiene or household chores until I have finished a novel.
12. I have spent money meant for necessities on books instead.
13. I have attempted to check out more library books than permitted.
14. Most of my friends are heavy fiction readers.
15. I have sometimes passed out from a night of heavy reading.
16. I have suffered blackouts or memory loss from a bout of reading.
17. I have wept or become angry or irrational because of something I read.
18. I have sometimes wished I did not read so much.
19. Sometimes I think my reading is out of control.
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may be a literature addict. An affirmative response to five or more indicates a serious problem. Once a relatively rare disorder, Literature Abuse, or LA, has risen to new levels due to the accessibility of higher education and increased college enrollment since the end of the Second World War. The number of literature abusers is currently at record levels.
SOCIAL COSTS OF LITERARY ABUSE Abusers become withdrawn, uninterested in society or normal relationships. They fantasize, creating alternative worlds to occupy, to the neglect of friends and family. In severe cases they develop bad posture from reading in awkward positions or carrying heavy book bags. In the worst instances, they become cranky reference librarians in small towns. Excessive reading during pregnancy is perhaps the number one cause of moral deformity among the children of English professors and teachers of English and creative writing. Known as Fetal Fiction Syndrome, this disease also leaves its victims prone to lifetime of nearsightedness, daydreaming, and emotional instability.
HEREDITY Recent Harvard studies have established that heredity plays a considerable role in determining whether a person will become an abuser of literature. Most abusers have at least one parent who abused literature, often beginning at an early age and progressing into adulthood. Many spouses of an abuser become abusers themselves. OTHER PREDISPOSING
FACTORS Fathers or mothers who are English teachers, professors, or heavy fiction readers; parents who do not encourage children to play Nintendo, participate in healthy sports, or watch television in the evening.
PREVENTION Premarital screening and counseling, referral to adoption agencies in order to break the chain of abuse. English teachers in particular should seek partners active in other fields. Children should be encouraged to seek physical activity and to avoid isolation and morbid introspection.
DECLINE AND FALL: THE ENGLISH MAJOR Within the sordid world of literature abuse, the lowest circle belongs to those sufferers who have thrown their lives and hopes away to study literature in our colleges. Parents should look for signs that their children are taking the wrong path. Don't expect your teenager to approach you and say, "I can't stop reading Spenser." By the time you visit her dorm room and find the secret stash of the Paris Review, it may already be too late.
What to do if you suspect your child is becoming an English major:
1. Talk to your child in a loving way. Show your concern. Let them know you won't abandon them but that you aren't spending a hundred grand to put them through Stanford so they can clerk at Waldenbooks either. But remember that they may not be able to make a decision without help; perhaps they have just finished Madame Bovary and are dying of arsenic poisoning.
2. Face the issue. Tell them what you know, and how: "I found this book in your purse. How long has this been going on?" Ask the hard question: What was Dante really portraying in this cirle?
3. Show them another way. Move the television set into their room. Introduce them to frat boys.
4. Do what you have to do! Tear up their library card. Make them stop signing their letters as "Emma." Force them to take a math class or minor in Spanish. Transfer them to a Florida college.
You may be dealing with a life-threatening problem if one or more of the following applies: * They name one or more of their cats after a Romantic poet. * Next to their bed is a picture of Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, or any scene from the Lake District.
Most importantly, remember, you are not alone. To seek help for yourself or someone you love, contact the nearest chapter of the American Literature Abuse Society, or look under ALAS in your local phone directory.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Well, I'm doomed. (Though I never did become a lit major). Seriously though, most of that list applied to me, very much, from the age of 10 to the age of 16. I used to carry a novel in my purse or bag everywhere I went...I felt insecure if I didn't have an imaginary world I could plunge into whenever things became boring or uncomfortable in the real one.