Autodidact: self-taught


Cereal Boxes and Nabokov

by V. L. Craven

I’m indifferent to sex. This isn’t a secret, as I’ve done interviews for television and print media, as well as participating in a massive study on asexuality being conducted in Canada.

I’ve known I was asexual since I was sixteen and a typical response is complete incredulity. I’ve always found this to be offensive, figuring the other person thought I didn’t know myself well or that I hadn’t met the right person, I was abused, raised very religiously, etc. They couldn’t accept that not everyone enjoyed the things they did. To me, it was perfectly logical that some people would have no interest in sex since some people seem to be attracted to anything that metabolizes oxygen into carbon dioxide.

Recently I realised what tripped up the incredulous. They couldn’t imagine their lives without sex. It colours their lives to such a degree that if they didn’t spend time and money pursuing it, keeping it and improving it then what would they do?

Then it occurred to me: They felt about me the way I felt about reading. When I meet someone who says they don’t enjoy reading I think, ‘Why not? Reading’s awesome! I’ve been into it since I was little. They couldn’t pry the book out of my hands. Was the person traumatized by a book as a child? Did they receive negative images of reading? Were readers thought to be boring? Did their parents tell them to get outside and play rather than reading? Perhaps they’d been reading the wrong books! I could find the right books for them!’

Yeah… so…

To extend the metaphor, there are two types of reading: reading because you love the author or subject matter. For me it’s Nabokov. When I first discovered him I looked forward to getting back to reading his books all day during work. I thought about him all the time. I sang his praises everywhere. I was in love with him. I wanted to read every word he’d written, as they’d seem to have been written expressly for me.

This is the equivalent of being madly in lust with another person. Not being able to get enough of said person. Every fibre of your being is longing for that person’s presence and touch.

The second type of reading is when I just have to read something. If I don’t read something I’ll die. I’ve found myself reading cereal boxes. I think, ‘What am I doing? How is this useful?’

This is like the one-night stand. You have to read something and at a certain point it doesn’t really matter what. Once you’ve read the cereal box you realise how pointless it was to do so, but there it is. And you know you’ll do it again in future. It’s just part of life for real readers.

So now I wish my friends to have lots of profound Nabokov experiences and I hope their cereal box experiences are few and interesting, at least.

(Though I still think I could hook you up with books that will get you interested in reading.)

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