"I can read Henry James in a dim room near the ocean on a beach day without feeling I’m missing life."
Now there's a super-power! What reading skills of yours compare to that?
The impressive power belongs to Mona Simpson, quoted in "Mona Simpson’s Fiancé Promised to Read ‘Middlemarch.’ He Never Did. Now He’s Her Ex. 'Certain men are constitutionally incapable of reading one of the greatest novels ever written,' says the author, whose new novel is 'Commitment'" (NYT).
Oh? Do you want to talk about that fiancé? That's what made me click through to the interview. I've read the article, and I've actually read "Middlemarch." Have you? Would you reject someone who's "incapable of reading" "Middlemarch"?
Now, you might say the problem isn't that he somehow couldn't read it but that he promised to read it, and then he didn't follow through. But I'm seeing that word "fiancé," and doesn't that embody a promise? But — yikes, all this close reading! — it doesn't say he's her ex because he was incapable of reading it (or because he promised and then didn't do it). It just says he promised, he didn't do it, and now he's her ex. Just a sequence of events. No pinning down of the causality. Indeed, it doesn't even say say that he's one of the "certain men" who are "incapable." Maybe he's not. That would make his breaking of the promise worse.
I'm stuck on the article title. In the text of the interview, it says:
Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
“Middlemarch.” I once wrenched a promise from a young fiancé to read it. The marriage ended more than a decade later, with the novel still unread. I tried a second time. Certain men are constitutionally incapable of reading one of the greatest novels ever written.
Ah! I like her so much more reading her own words. She's self-critical: She wrenched the promise. And she didn't break her promise to marry. They married and stayed together for a decade. Does "I tried a second time" mean that she wrenched a promise to read "Middlemarch" from another man, married him too, and he, too, failed to read the book? In any case, I'm feeling the humor in "constitutionally incapable of reading ['Middlemarch']."
The other side of that power to read a dense book on a beautiful day without feeling that you're "missing life" may be a failure to fully align with a partner who's anxious about getting out into that day and about you missing life, and about being bound to you and therefore missing the companionship that would fulfill his drive to fully experience life?
It's been half a century since I read "Middlemarch," but as I remember it, the main character is married to a fusty, book-centered man and must ultimately realize that she's missed out on life.