I love reading. I have loved to read ever since I learned how. Some of my most enduring memories are of being mesmerized by a story, my imagination running wild. I know that I will die before I get to a tenth of what I want to read. I went through a period of time where this thought consumed me and induced a level of anxiety that has never quite subsided. I have eclectic taste and enjoy fiction as much as non-fiction. All I am asking is to be captivated, provoked to think about something in a new way, and to enrich my worldview. The very best art illuminates human nature, and that’s the experience I value.
Ernest Hemingway is arguably one of the greatest authors who ever lived. He is a force in culture and even though he blew his brains out sixty years ago, he lives on in many ways, through many media. He wrote several books which are classics in the pantheon of literature. Nonetheless, I’ve never read him and I never will, the reason being his love of hunting and bullfighting. I cannot and will not read detailed descriptions of animals being harmed. One of Ernest’s biggest pleasures and sources of excitement was the thrill of watching a beast die by his own hands. The all-encompassing exuberance that he derived from extinguishing a majestic being is something I do not want to know. I can’t begin to enjoy or relate to anyone who thinks and feels that watching a bull die is beautiful or a representation of the power of man.
I will also never read Moby Dick. I’ve heard many wonderful authors that I greatly admire speak about the way this book affected them. Many put it in their top ten of all time. I wish I could have the experience, but I know there’s no way I can read hundreds of pages detailing the whaling industry. It pains me to think of ocean life being subjected to the most heinous cruelty, pulled from the depths of the sea in order to have their bodies harvested for human purpose. I know these novels were written in a very different time where the advances of modern technology were naught, but the hurt I feel is too strong to face it. And, knowing that whales are still hunted, causes me great pain.
Luckily, I can allay some of my anxiety by reminding myself that thankfully, there’s no shortage of great books, so I’ll never run out of reading material.