With daylight still apparent after my hour-long commute home, I dashed into my apartment last week, threw on sneakers, and grabbed my phone. I was in too much of a state of agitation and pent-up energy to listen to the tree sounds yet, so I opened the audiobook app and continued listening to Better Than Before, the habit-formation book by Gretchen Rubin.
She was talking about the strategy of “Pairing,” wherein we unite 2 things that need to be done (for example, treadmill desk at work). As I continued stalking over to the park-like cemetery in my neighborhood (where many folks run and walk dogs; I swear, not creepy!), I stopped suddenly struck.
I could unite 2 things I want to do.
For long, I’ve wanted to read more classical literature. I am an English major, MFA, and teacher, after all, and an avid (near-penitential) reader. And like many readers, I have on my shelf “aspirational books”: those that I’d love to have read, but struggle to actually read. E.g. Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Iliad.
What thunderstruck me on my walk was this: I could listen to the audio versions of these classic books. Perhaps that would not only help me to “read” them, but also to understand them. First up? Anna Karenina. I have indeed attempted to read the paper and cardboard version of this novel, but have been stymied by the names — who are they talking about again?? The Russians love to use the full “Christian” names, the diminutive names, the LAST names, all interchangeably to the point where I’ve absolutely lost track of who the hell is Tolstoy talking about anyway?!
So, thusly, my brainwave led me to the ebook app where I discovered Maggie Gyllenhaal(!) would read me Anna Karenina. Downloaded, earbuds in, I began to walk again in the falling light.
And folks, I UNDERSTOOD it!! I listened again on the slog-ride home yesterday, and I could actually recall portions of the plot and (for the most part) retain who was who!
I shared my discovery and attendant elation with a friend on the phone this past weekend. And she, too, was elated — and suggested we start a book club.
Now, Gretchen Rubin is a book-club lover and, honestly, I thought I would jump at the idea — it has been hard for me to read these books on my own. But with this new-found habit of listening to dense books rather than reading them (which I do plan to do once I hear it all), I’m not sure that I truly want to meet up and discuss them. I talk about books all the time.
I recounted this conundrum to my therapist last night, and she asked if I actually wanted to be in a book club. … “Well, not really,” I replied. “But what I would like is a regular poker night.”
Several years ago, I opened my apartment door to find an Amazon package on my welcome mat. The package was addressed to me and the packing slip inside was as well. But without a return address or orderee. Inside the box was a slim, silver case, within which was a brand-new poker set. Chips and cards, even dice and a disk with “Dealer” printed on it. I’ve no idea from where it came, and have held onto it (in aspirational fashion) ever since.
I’ve lugged it to campsites, to winter cabins, but still the deck of cards remains sealed in its plastic sleeve.
“I’d love to have a regular girls’ poker night,” I said to her again. “To gather and kibbitz; to have fun, because, in the end, it is a game. But I’ve always been stymied by the fact that my apartment is too small… I’ve wanted a game night for years.”
And so, it seems, I’m going to have to enlist a few friends–maybe even a few new friends–to join me for blind betting, cut decks, and bowls of tortilla chips.
No, I don’t really know how to play — but I will.