Saturday, January 4, 2020

“You are what you read”

I was walking towards the pharmacy, deliciously lost (for the umptieth time) in John Lee’s more-than-awesome reading of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, when I overheard someone say, “You are what you read”. And since my brain’s sense of outrage often shares a direct connection to my tongue and teeth, I totally blurted out, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard today.”
I’m sure the person didn’t hear me. Seriously. The nasty stay-out-of-my business look that she gave me must’ve been provoked by the fact that I had turned around much too quickly, and my sudden stop forced a glare out of her startled eyes.

I’ve been thinking about that. No, not about her eyes. I’ve been thinking about her words. Now I think they might be the stupidest (and most dangerous) thing I’ve heard this year. Can you imagine a world where those words were true? Readers of Stephen King would be murderous addicts, readers of Edgar Allan Poe would be murderous psychopaths, readers of Jeff Lindsay would be… just murderous.

But I’m choosing to believe that the woman wasn’t being literal. She was most likely just trying to get the teenage boy walking with her to read more books. Right? Well, I really hope so. Because the idea of a world where someone truly believes people become all the books they read is both scary and saddening.

What do you think she meant? How do you feel about it? And do tell me what you are reading… I’m certain that the title(s) won’t tell me who you are.

a Sophie Gilmore illustration, in A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader

for Poets and Storytellers United (Writers Pantry #1: Home Is People)

63 comments:

  1. I just finished a book called The Child Finder, and it was fab. Next is The Lesser Bohemians.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Child Finder sounds intriguing, and slightly ominous... I might give it a go.

      Delete
    2. You would flipping LOVE it. And there’s a sequel!!! She is a brilliant writer. So much poetry in her prose.

      Delete
    3. You have twisted my arm *grins*. So, it's my next read!

      Delete
    4. Yay!!! I can’t wait to read your book review. :)

      Delete
    5. I just finished The Child Finder, and found it to be rather... memorable. Also, I completely agree (and live by) the bit about owning our horrors. When we do, they can't rule us. In fact, they can become strengths.

      Thank you for the recommendation!

      Delete
    6. Do you think you’ll read the sequel? I have it but haven’t started yet.

      Delete
    7. Added it to my to-be-read list the moment I was done with the first. I must know what happens with certain couple. 😁

      Delete
    8. :)

      The couple I want to know about is her and her sister.

      Delete
    9. Me too! I was trying to avoid spoilers, lol! 😂

      Delete
  2. I took it as meaning "garbage in, garbage out." If all you read is trash, you'll be a trashy thinker. But if you read quality works, your brain will learn to run along a better path. Now me, I like a nice mix of the two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suspect that's what she meant, too. But I've always found that attitude limiting and dangerous. Not because everybody should run to read something they consider "trash", but because how can one truly know if a book is worthless if one doesn't read it? Who does one trust to tell which books are better than others?

      Delete
    2. My rule is, if a book was meant for you, IT will grab YOUR spine.

      Delete
  3. I guess she was trying to suggest that if he only read good, uplifting material, he would wind up a good person. Maybe. A dubious proposition, anyway. Sooner or later children find out that Santa Claus is a story made up by parents, and that chocolate tastes lovely even if it does rot your teeth, etc. On the other hand, I always loved reading about magic....

    At present I am reading in paperback 'The Happiest Refugee' by Anh Do, Aussie comedian and portrait painter. (Look him up; he's wonderful.) I found it on the shelves in my grand-daughter's bedroom, which she has vacated for me while I am visiting. I am also reading the beautiful hardback 'The Sandman' by Neil Gaiman, illus by Yoshitaka Amana, belonging to my firstborn, which he has lent me while I am here with instructions to treat it like glass. And on my Kindle app on my iPad I am reading 'The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics,' ed. by Diane Lockward, as well as re-reading 'House of Light' by Mary Oliver. I am about to start, also in Kindle, 'The Art of Witch' by Fiona Horne and 'Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia' by David Hunt. And I am flipping now and again through the paperback 'Buddha's Little Book of Life,' lovely quotations, which one of my daughters-in-law gave me for xmas. I absolutely believe these will tell you who I am. *Grin.*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, true. When all is said and done (and read), a reader always finds their way to all books.

      I love that you, too, classify your reads as paperback, hardback, digital and such... I do the same. And I'm so jealous of your reading of The Sandman. I think it's time to start rereading the series!

      Delete
  4. Paperback: No friend but the mountains - Behrouz Boochani (distressing read about the Manus Island refugees seeking asylum in Australia/ Kindle: Dream Work- Mary Oliver (going at the rate of a poem a day or less). I read non-fiction mostly, current events, the poetry I downloaded because it was Kindle unlimited. I am two people :D :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the idea of a poem a day. I think I shall try it. I usually get greedy... But delighting in a treat a day sounds good.

      Delete
  5. I agree that being what you read is scary and saddening. I read to escape and becoming what I read would just be a trap. Besides, I read a lot of scary stuff, which would probably make me scary too! I didn’t use to read historical novels, but I’ve just finished reading The Foundling by Stacey Halls with The Pigeonhole, which feeds you a stave a day for ten days, and it took me back to Georgian London, a very dark and dangerous place, especially for women and children. I was totally immersed in characters and story, but I’m glad I was born when I was. My bedtime book is A Starless Sky by Erin Morgenstern - I really enjoyed The Night Circus - I'm always looking for a bit of magic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree. We can learn from books, escape through books, and all sorts of things... But to be what we read is a bit much.

      I haven't started Starless Sky--I, too, really enjoyed her fist book. I hope the second one just as yummy.

      Delete
  6. Of course you are not what you read as the delight in reading is to experience who you are not, you read and do what you would shun normally and visit places that you would never buy a ticket to. However you satisfy your imagination, or thrill at the unthinkable and even cry at mistakes of others as you wear their shoes as you read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Words let us experience the world and each other, in ways reality never can.

      Delete
  7. Such a wonderful piece of writing - tricky to answer i think we must absorb the books we read

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am rereading The Magus by John Fowles.
    Thanks for your thought-provoking musings.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I chime with Debra's interpretation of that silly woman's statement - how easy it is for us to cast judgement on those that don't think (or act) like us...
    And I think your response to her is correct too in that we must read to discover the merit of a book.
    I love reading, choosing books I think I will enjoy because of its (yet unread) contents. Sometimes I am disappointed, but more often than not, not.
    I guess its all down to personal taste, a taste we have no right to enforce on others.
    My current readings is Admissions by Henry Marsh which sought of fell by the wayside over the holiday season - so I must get back to it!
    Anna :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree! It's all about taste and choice. And we can't develop the first or truly make the second if we don't read a bit of everything.

      So glad to read you again, Anna!

      Delete
  10. I agree with her in a sense but with exceptions.
    I devoured works by Dickens, Poe's essays and Dylan Thomas. Not to leave out Kipling, Longfellow and Bryant but then Heinlein and Emile Zola came along. And oh, Victor Hugo and Dostoyevsky. These writers and poets, I consider meals but I also have the occasional snacks of Louis L'amour or a graphic novel. I also try to remember to try something new once in a while.

    I think that reading these works have helped my writing and when I get sloppy or stuck, it helps to go back to the well to refresh will a meal or two.

    Magaly, thank you for this spark and allowing me to share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reading--like living--is all in the journey. If we keep to just one path, we miss much. Yay! for variety.

      Thank you, Joel, for your words.

      Delete
  11. I think she was only trying to encourage people to buy books and read. I have also been musing on "you are what you read," it suggests so many things to me! For one, it speaks to me about the human mind.. what we read or wish to read speaks a lot about one's mind and its development.

    I am reading poems by Christina Georgina Rossetti these days. Yum!❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yum! indeed. I just got a new Christina Rossetti collection as a holiday gift. And I can't wait to travel into it.

      Delete
  12. Hmm...the saying “You are what you read” can mean different things. But I hope the lady was trying to motivate the teenage boy to read more books, or at least, be selective of his reads. Because if it taken literally, like you, I'd find that thought scary.

    I guess it would be the same scary feeling if someone said, “You are what you write” especially when it comes ramblings on the internet. :)

    Actually at the moment I’m reading one of my comp authors, Jennifer Walls; her book The Glass Castle. And true, this title won’t tell you much about who I am...lol! Because her experience is delivered in memoir and a lot different from mine, though with some similarities.

    Love your thought-provoking piece that elicits a response!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really hope we aren't some of rambles we write. If that was the case, I need to unfriend a lot of people (and probably get some restraining orders) lol!

      Delete
  13. Perhaps she was only trying to encourage others to read more. I too, read a lot of Stephen King, but I am definitely not a lunatic killer! great thoughts here Magaly.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think I'm of the understanding that our experience shapes who we are. And if you only read one thing than it limits your perspective of the world. Reading enables us to step into the shoes of another. If you only read one thing or one type of thing then you're closing the door on so many opportunities to learn. I've never been to Mars but I'd like to think I could cope better living there after reading Andy Weir's The Martian. I'm also a huge proponent of letting people read whatever gets them to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm right with you. I have a couple of friends who were raised in orthodox communities, where they learned/read nothing but the doctrines of their faiths. The effects of such upbringings are devastating.

      Delete
  15. I'm not what I read because I would be killer trash consumed with lust for historical. lol I read so many different things. I am a literary buffet seeker. :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I don't know what the woman on the street meant, but if I were to make the statement (and I wouldn't) for me, it might reflect the fact that what I'm reading (or listening to or watching) can influence my moods, how I feel about myself and therefore how I perceive and interact with others. So I certainly wouldn't become murderous if I read the authors you mentioned, but I might become a little more fearful, distrusting, closed off. It would be more accurate to say I feel and project what I read. A caution to be self-aware and accordingly selective about what media one consumes. Right now, I'm reading Living With The Stars, which would make me sunlight digested by plants and converted to energy that fuels my body which is constructed of the same elements as planets and stars and...wait a minute...I AM what I read! Okay, I am also reading The Return which would make me a virtuoso Flamenco dancer surviving the Spanish Civil War. As I cannot dance to save my life, I would say in this case, I am certainly not what I read. Great, thought-provoking post, Magaly!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you might've said it clearest, H. I, too, believe that the way a book or any sort media affects us has to do with who we are. What relaxes a soul might leave another feeling trapped. The only thing we can do is explore until we find what works for us.

      Delete
  17. Change is good ~ shifting from the old city of Rawalpindi to the outskirts of Islamabad I miss the Sunday Book free Show profoundly. A large variety of books were available at very low prices.This display promoted the reading skills and kept building private collections by enthusiastic readers. I wish the people would show more interest in books and reading but alas...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I grew up in a place where books were hard to come by, and perhaps for that reason not many people read much. I understand those feelings too well... the ones that squeeze the soul because we wish others could love books as much as we do.

      Delete
  18. I googled Child Finder which I saw at the bookstore. Adding Renfield’s other two books. Her character is a detective. A nice change.
    If what we read tells others what we are like then what we like in movies or what we eat can also be thrown at in the mix.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I finished The Child Finder last night. It was really interesting. I suspect you'll appreciate it, if you try it.

      Delete
  19. Interesting discussion. I think reading is a sort of consumption process - we select books and articles that will feed us in some way. It can be pure entertainment, learning about the lives of others, or an exploration of some topic. Perhaps like food, these are digested and some nourish more than others and, like food, it's good to consume a variety of things to keep us balanced.
    I'm currently reading "The Goldfinch" because I want to read the book before I see the movie. Other times I like biographies, books on spirituality and poetry of course.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm not what I watcher either. How about 'you are what you eat?' There might be some truth to that. I was watching this scene unfold from the fresh meat section.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For some reason, I seem to be finding titles everywhere today. I think "From the Fresh Meat Section" would make a fantastic title. Not sure what kind of book though...

      Delete
  21. That was a dumb thing she said- probably parroting what she herself had been told in the past!
    I’m currently reading an anthology of thrillers- murderers, kidnappers and thieves run amok in my brain. So, who knows? I might be changing jobs soon. LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I don't know what she could have possibly meant. Furthermore, whatever made her think you'd be interested in her opinion anyways!?

    I'm currently reading books on natural dyeing, boro mending, the sacred herbs of Samhain, and I'm totally out of novels because our town library has been closed since December 23rd and doesn't open again until tomorrow! Thank goodness. lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Out of novels! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...

      How can you survive?

      Delete
  23. i guess the woman was trying to get the boy to read some books. but first she had to get that boy to have an interest in reading.
    i read poetry, sci fi tales, thrillers, comics, brochures, the news, so where does that put me? which reminds me i am not reading much lately, and it is time for a trip to the local library.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We share similar tastes, when it comes to work. I consume everything from the dictionary to a billboard.

      It's always time for a trip to the local library!

      Delete
  24. What we read shapes our minds but so does different opinions and perspectives. Of course their are crap books - perhaps that’s what she meant. Finished “Book Woman of Troublesome Creek” , Years of Wonders (about the Black Plague) and now “Overstory” and on the docket “Anatomy of a Spirit”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Years of Wonder sounds intriguing, especially after knowing what it is about. I might have to give it ago.

      Delete
  25. Love the dialogue you can scare up, Magaly.
    I sort of believe "you are what you read," it is a sort of Body Language. I'd day from ammasing the data it will range from nine percent up to a whopping 57 percent. The more one reads the more it shows the person. That is from my Engineer Brain portion (Muse).
    All you guys tell more here than what you read!!! Again, I love reading you all.
    ..

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hmmm.. I'm not sure that I don't agree with her to an extent. But...

    I just finished Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy. I'm currently re-reading The Collector by Nora Roberts.
    love & blessings
    ~*~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me know how you like The Collector. I've yet to read it.

      Delete

I love your insightful remarks. So, go ahead, let them fly…