A literary turnaround

By Emma Testerman | Jun 10, 2021

I didn’t take advantage of reigniting my love of reading as I hoped to this winter.

If you were to visit my home, you’d notice my bookshelves are stuffed to the brim, almost groaning against the weight and quantity of books I collected over time.

Northern Vermont University-Johnson should regret the amount of free-for-all books it gave away when updating its library stock. I’m pretty sure a third of them ended up in my bookshelves, if not still in boxes or the back of my car.

(Hoarder who? Never heard of it.)

I used to be quite a bookworm in middle school until I hit college. There's nothing really to do in the town of Sims-boring, Connecticut; if my friends and I didn’t have money to spend socially. There’s only so many walking trails we could do without it becoming monotonous.

Reading was the second-best adventure, if I couldn’t escape the town itself. I’m not sure why I haven’t bothered picking up a book in such a long time.

Wait. I know why. It’s because the public education system killed the love of reading with required literature, stifling any opinions we have through forced essays that should only agree with a certain perspective, or be punished by reduced grades if we think otherwise.

Maybe that's just a Connecticut thing.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the books our public school system makes us read are actually sort of enjoyable.

Despite S.E. Hinton’s reputation, I still enjoy “The Outsiders,” and it is one of my top favorite fictional reads. “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson was another that left me raw and aching, as if the author wrote it for me personally, during the latter years of high school.

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller stoked the fire, “Paradise Lost” by John Milton opened my mind, and “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman changed my beliefs to a perspective I now find more suitable in my spirituality.

If this can encourage some to take a breather from life’s current turmoil and enjoy some Vitamin D outside with a good book, I will do my best to push literary propaganda as best as I can.

As a copy editor for The Courier-Gazette and VillageSoup, my main area of expertise is the community section. All calendar items, public events and club gatherings go through the sift I use each week. Many of you have probably seen our weekly community briefs, often including book clubs to join.

While I don’t find myself attracted to assigned reading, due to the arm-twisting assignments from previous school years, I do appreciate the books each club announces in every press release they send.

Recently, I’ve taken a gander at a book the Thomaston Public Library is reading for its upcoming Let’s Talk About It book club, “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham. After handling many calendar items for county-wide book clubs, I grew more curious at each read.

The book has such a raw, stream-of-consciousness narrative I somehow was able to understand. Must be the attention dissociative disorder.

I won’t leave any book spoilers, that wouldn’t be kind. But I will say “The Hours” has a style I know one of my former college professors would be obsessed with, like my nonfiction professor’s addiction to Joan Didion.

Despite the lack of action towards dedicated seasonal reading, I do find comfort in one form of reading that often throws people for a loop: obituaries.

As someone here at the paper who assists in obituary publications, I absolutely love reading each one.

A few of my friends laugh and link the word ‘morbid’ to my interest in it all. But they don’t entirely understand this part of my job is what really gets me ready for work with full fervor. Each obituary has such a fascinating story of someone’s life, and it’s only just a part of what we can read, a porthole through a ship running its last course.

I often wonder if the spirits of the deceased appreciate people reading with interest about their lives. I’ve read amazing things about locals who traveled to exotic countries, met famous sportsmen on planes, been prisoners of war and survived, and those who gave their blood and sweat to support their local community.

These obituaries are written by the voices of loving family members, friends and caregivers. I find it hard that people might not notice that while reading through them each week.

As someone who doesn’t normally find the non-fiction genre appealing personally, obits reignited a love for biographical works that I thought was once lost forever.

Is it possible to add obituaries into the biographical genre? Who knows. But some of you locals really should consider writing biographies of passed relatives, because many I’ve read are just so fascinating, I can’t imagine how anyone else would not, as well.

Didn’t think summer reading would veer into the direction of obituaries, did you? Neither did I. But then again, if there’s anything I learned about writing from a special nonfiction professor, Tyrone Shaw, “we all have stories to share, and although we may think it mundane because we lived through it, others will find it worthwhile to hear.”

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