Well read-head: back off or I’ll throw the book at you
Why is it that some people obviously consider reading to be “doing nothing”? Many a time I’ve been on a plane or a train, reading, and the person next to me will strike up a conversation as if I were doing nothing. It happens in my own home too.
When I open a book in the living room, it’s apparently a signal to members of my family to sit down and start chatting. In fact, so often am I pestered while reading that I’ve built up an arsenal of manoeuvres to deflect interrupters.
The first step is to ignore. The interrupter will usually assume you’ve not heard them because you’re so absorbed in what you’re reading. While this is often enough to deter a stranger, it won’t stop a family member. Relatives – and the bold - will certainly blunder forward.
If the situation escalates because the interrupter persists, the second step is to grunt an unintelligible response without looking up. Only the most socially inept stranger will persist beyond that. If you feel a grunt is too ill-mannered, the alternative is to sigh, very theatrically place your finger as a marker on the page, look up, give a polite one-word answer and then immediately return to reading. Again, I emphasise that these techniques will not deter family members.
This brings me to the third step, which is to bark a sharp ‘I’m reading!’ I’ve never had the guts to do this to a stranger – much as I’ve wanted to. I save my rudeness for the people I love best.
The final step, when the interrupter misses all the signals, is to explode. “I SAID I’M READING!” I’ve been known to bellow, while slamming down the book. “WHAT CAN YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO SAY THAT’S SO IMPORTANT?”
My family is now so accustomed to my fury at being interrupted while reading that it’s become a running joke. “Careful, she’s gonna blow,” my husband will say to somebody who’s blithely talking at me while I’m immersed in an article. “Ooooh, nobody talk to Leigh – she’s reading!” Mum will mock. “She’s reading! She’s reading!” Dad will squawk in response, flapping around like a deranged parrot.
The hide of these people. Fancy Mum & Dad thinking that when I fly home to Queensland for a visit that I’ll actually engage in conversation after I borrow their car and eat their food.
If you’d like to test my anti-interruption techniques, below is a selection of items to read or watch. Thanks also to readers of last week’s debut Well-read Head for your feedback, both here and on twitter.
1. You may remember a story from a couple of weeks ago about what appeared to be a grisly murder/suicide in the UK. In a notorious suicide spot, at the bottom of a cliff, police found the bodies of a couple. Their five year old son was in a plastic bag nearby. There was a second bag containing toys. When I first heard of the incident, I assumed they had killed the child and then themselves. That was far from the case and the truth is very sad, as this story in London’s Telegraph newspaper explains.
2. John Birmingham is surely one of the most versatile and engaging writers in the country. He has written a piece for the June issue of The Monthly, profiling some of the recently unemployed. One of the most memorable anecdotes concerns a woman whose child has been asking why there’s now an apple in the school lunch box instead of raspberries.
3. Voting has started in the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. My tip is for Princess Chelsea Nicole.
4. Paul Krugman has been writing some interesting stuff for The New York Times since Obama’s election, mostly criticism of the Administration’s economic policies. This is another fascinating piece, explaining that the Department of Homeland Security in the US believes the preconditions exist for a domestic upsurge in right-wing extremist violence. As examples, Krugman points to the recent killing of an anti-abortion doctor and a shooting by a white supremacist at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
5. Andrew Sullivan writes a blog for The Atlantic. It’s always a great discussion. He is considered a conservative, but in reality, he defies labelling. It’s very hard to predict which way he’ll land on any issue and that makes his writing interesting. I referred above to a recent US case in which a late term abortion doctor was shot and murdered in a church. Sullivan has been running a lengthy discussion about it, posting emails from contributors, both for and against abortion. This is one of the stories I found most compelling Sullivan has also been doing stellar work drawing together various sources of news from Iran.
6. Antonia Cirottola is an elderly Italian woman who lives by herself in Mildura. She tries not to be a bother to anybody but she’s lonely. Loneliness is one of the great hardships facing elderly Australians, as Lucy Battersby and Tom Arup write in this beautiful, moving story for The Age, written last year.
7. The Daily Beast recently posted eight of the year’s best TV commercials. There are some gems in here. Nobody does smarmy like Alec Baldwin.
8. This simply delightful piece in The New York Times profiles a TV actor who always seems to find himself being killed off:
9. I love Australia’s Next Top Model. To the elitist snobs, yes you can anchor Lateline and recommend articles from The Monthly yet also enjoy ANTM. Sarah Murdoch is great. Fox8, Tues nights, 7.30pm.
10. I feel as if I often read stories about how divorce impacts on children but that I don’t hear a lot from kids themselves about it. This wonderful episode of the SBS Insight program features a forum of kids under 20, talking about their parents splitting up. The anchor, Jenny Brockie, handles it beautiful and I felt that it truly lived up to the program’s name: it was insightful.
- Follow Leigh on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LEIGHSALES
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…