Reading as an Olympic Sport

How perfect!  At last, reading is an Olympic event, and we’ve all made the team!  To participate in the Olympic Reading Challenge, you are to read as many books written by your fellow countryment as possible during the time period of August 8-24, 2008.

Since the extent of my athletic ability is running from one bookstack to the next, or lifting heavy tomes overhead whist reading in bed, this is the perfect opportunity for me to Go For the Gold.

It just so happens that only this morning I finished a book by a fellow American, Laurie Colwin.  Family Happiness (a triple re-read) is the story of Polly Solo-Miller, a seemingly perfect wife and mother who has it all – succesful attorney husband, satisfying career as a reading specialist, two perfect children, a loving and close knit family, and a handsome artist who is her lover.  Polly’s problem is that she feels as if she must be all things to all people all the time, leaving her “spread as thin as the butter on a Danish sandwich.”  And while I’m not quite sure exactly what a Danish sandwich is, Colwin manages to give the reader quite a good idea.

I find myself re-reading this book just for this passage – Polly,  fed up with a life of constant sacrifice to her family with no apparent gratitude for her effort, finally let’s fly all the resentment that’s been bubbling up inside.

I’m tired,” she tells her husband Henry.  “I’m tired of feeling I have to be so good.  I’m tired of working so hard to make sure every little thing is right.  I’m sick of being the only person who behaves. I’m tired of thinking I have to work so hard to get anyone to love me. I’m sick of having to be so sensitive to everybody’s quirks and needs, and I’m sick of soothing everyone’s feelings.  I behave and behave and behave and I don’t get any credit for it.  I want some praise.  I want to be singled out.  I’m tired of being considerate and asking everybody about their lives and their jobs when no one asks me one single thing.”

“I’m scared of you,” said Henry.

You go girl! Now, that’s what I call showing some spirit.

Family Happiness is quite a delightful look at the American family.  I’ve always meant to look up some of Colwin’s other work, especially her essay collections, Home Cooking, and More Home Cooking.   Sadly, Colwin died in 1992, at the age of 48.

So, I believe I’m off and running on this very clever new challenge.  Next up is Doctored Evidence, by Donna Leon.  Although Leon’s series of procedurals are set in Venice, the author herself is as American as apple pie.

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6 thoughts on “Reading as an Olympic Sport

  1. Laurie Colwin is a treasure. Family Happiness is one of my favorites, as well as A Big Storm Knocked it Over. Of course, I am partial to her essays on cooking, although I have never had much luck with any of her recipes. But when the writing is that good, who cares?

    Looking forward to hearing about anything else you read during this challenge — good luck in your quest for the gold!

  2. A fun challenge, although I have so much I must read that I know I must resist it. However, I do like the sound of that book and the passage you quote is just wonderful! I’ll have to see if I can get hold of it.

  3. I loved that book and all of Laurie Colwin’s books. My someday-I’ll-write-it cookbook is inspired by the way she pulled Home Cooking together. It’s another of my favorites. Thanks for reminding us of this one. That might be a good reread for me now — the paragraph you quoted was all too true these days, and I feel like ranting the same way (and in the same words) as Polly!

  4. Pingback: The Sunday Salon - Happy All The Time « Bookstack

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