Sep 022013
 

Please Pass the Guilt
Please Pass the Guilt by Rex Stout
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The rating should be a 4, but I was thinking more about the act of reading than reading the book itself. Let me explain.

I had this conversation, not the first, with several members of my brain health care team who said it’s not normal to read a book in one day, that that’s unusual. Really?! Before my brain injury, I’d take out three of these kinds of books — mystery or Star Trek, mass paperback, usually longer than a Rex Stout book — per week, five if I could get away with it, and read one in a day, about two hours, less for a book like Please Pass the Guilt, more for a PD James mystery. I’d often read a book like this in one go, or maybe I’d take it with me when I went out and read it on the TTC, while waiting, while eating alone, even on the escalator or walking, and it was not usual for me to take longer than a day to finish it. I absolutely know I’m not the only one — one day I saw three women on one escalator, noses in their ebooks or paperbacks. I see more and more men reading trade paperbacks on the subway too.

So I downloaded Please Pass the Guilt from the library onto my Sony Reader and made myself finish reading it in one day.

The best part of reading Please Pass the Guilt was spending time with Archie. Being the narrator, Archie is more present in one’s mind than Nero is. I learnt a few new things about Archie and the running of Nero’s household, and I liked the nuanced change, if temporary, in the relationship between Nero and Inspector Cramer.

The worst part was the act of reading. Because my brain injury harmed my reading ability a great deal — and even though we’ve been focussing treatment on healing the damaged systems involved in reading — it was not easy. First off, reading fatigues me. I had to keep taking breaks to recharge. It reminded me that if such an easy-to-read book as one by Rex Stout saps my energy, then I still have someway to go to be able to read at my old level without needing a nap or three. Then I had a hard time staying engaged — the more tired one is, the harder it is. Plus reading outside naturally means distractions — squirrels, far-off conversations, sounds of an air show. And then there were the usual-for-me-now keeping track of characters, dates (and Rex Stout makes it soooo easy to know what day it is), but at least not plot . . . although the solution made no sense to me. I think my brain must’ve been fried at that point. I shall have to reread it at a slower, broken-up pace so that I can keep up with Archie’s narration and revelation of the motive.

I timed my reading because I always do in order to track my reading progress. It took me just shy of three hours to read this book (I wonder if reading a mass paperback version would’ve taken me longer or the same time . . .). So about 1.5 times longer than my old normal. Since in the early years after my brain injury, it took me longer than 21 days to read a mystery mass paperback and hardly absorb one word of it and would cause me to incur library fines, hence me stopping borrowing books, that’s pretty good. Wish it was better though. (The year it took me a year to read a short non-fiction book liberally sprinkled with illustrations is the year I stopped reading altogether until I found and began treatment for my brain injury.)

I used to solve mysteries before the end, and always loved to see how quickly I could do it. Now I don’t, before the end or even a few times understand them at the end. I’ve gotten used to that big change, but maybe if I can leap the hurdles of reading a short, easy mystery in one day, I shall set the next goal as solving the mystery before the author reveals it, even if it’s only a sentence before.

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