Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Compulsive reading aloud

Started The Mother Tongue, and though not very far into it I can already tell I'm going to spend the book reading it aloud to whoever's handy. Sorry everybody, there's no way around this. For example, you know the much discussed fifty words the Eskimos have for snow? That's the least of it. Italian has 500 names for different kinds of noodles, in the Trobriand Islands they have a hundred words for yams, and Arabic supposedly has 6,000 words for camels and camel trappings. I can already tell this book is going to be full of fascinating information like this, and it's the kind of thing I can't help but tell people.

So now it's got me thinking about all the books like this, that I can't help but read aloud. I definitely read people bits out of The Mitford Girls and Reading the OED, I know. It's not just nonfiction, though. I read a lot to people out of Hunting Unicorns, by Bella Pollen, which I read quite a while ago and really enjoyed. It comes across a little like it was supposed to be a screenplay for a romantic comedy film but turned out as a book, though this doesn't harm it any. It's about the sons of an aristocratic family which hasn't got the money to keep up its big sprawling house any more, and an American girl who comes to England to do a TV special about the "obsolete aristocracy." All sorts of hilarious things happen, and it was the sort of book that one gets funny looks over on the bus because you're laughing out loud. The trouble, of course, about reading it on the bus, is that you don't really want to quote it at strangers but it's just so tempting.

I suspect I read out bits of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, but finally made myself stop because my mother was going to read it and I didn't want to spoil it for her.

Does anyone else feel compelled to read books aloud to people?

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