Elizabeth Olson has worn many a hat. I met her in undergrad when she was a blossoming actress. She followed that path for a while, building her yoga practice and attending Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in 2005. By 2011 she competed in the Illinois Asana Championship and was passed on to the National Yoga Asana Championship. She broadened her practice to become a teacher of Amrit Yoga as well, and then decided to take her fluency with the body, injury, and chronic pain management even further by heading to New York Chiropractor College. With all of these other endeavors, Elizabeth's reading life has changed markedly, and she was kind enough to talk to me about it.
Jac Jemc: I crowd-sourced on facebook and you said that your husband, Bill, a pretty avid reader would argue that you're no longer a reader because you read only textbooks and Harry Potter (over and over). How does it feel to know Bill's embarrassed about your reading choices?
Elizabeth Olson: I relish the power it gives me. I think he's admirable in his own reading.
JJ: You also said that you hope to become a reader again someday. Can you imagine the conditions that would make that possible?
EO: Currently, my brain feels constantly overwhelmed. I've had a stressful few years and am in grad school. Once I stop having to memorize textbooks, I imagine reading again. Though, I don't know that I'll ever have the stomach for real drama or violence that I once had. I pretty much only watch stupid romantic comedies precisely because nothing is happening in them. I think that's one reason I don't read much anymore.
JJ: If you could pick up any book right now that you don't feel you have the capacity to currently read, do you know what it would be? If not something specific, a type of book?
EO: I'd finish your book A Different Bed Every Time. I loved the first few stories. *
JJ: Were you a bigger reader when you were a kid?
EO: Yes, voracious. It was one of my favorite things.
JJ: What was the last book you read that fell outside of your current parameters? When was it?
EO: I read My Antonia by Willa Cather over Christmas break.
JJ: Did alternate leisure reading happen right when school started? Before that?
EO: I used to only do it when I was an actor and I hated the play I was in. I first read Harry Potter under those conditions and it just...stuck, I guess. Now I read them when I'm under a lot of stress and have trouble unwinding which is most of the time, currently.
JJ: Why are the Harry Potter books just the thing right now?
EO: I know how it ends, so it's totally stress free. Plus, it's a world I love living in, where the female characters are many, richly woven, and powerful. It's a story about facing your fate bravely with good friends.
JJ: What are some of your favorite books outside of this cluster?
EO: Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark and Hafiz's poetry and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
JJ: Do you read the internet? Why does or doesn’t that count in the realm of being a “reader?”
EO: Yes, I occasionally read articles. I love popular science when I have the brain space. My husband and you are readers. You consume words like fine cuts of meat, like a twelve dollar desert. You go out and find the best. You have developed reading palates.
JJ: Do you think that you do something else that takes the place of reading, like in the time that otherwise reading might happen? Or that satisfies you in a similar way to how reading
EO: I get some of that same thrill of wonder from nature and visual art without the stress. I am sure all this memorizing and listening to lectures and learning is taking up some or most of that brain space. It's about brain space, not time.
JJ: What do you miss about doing other sorts of reading? (Or do you?)
EO: I do miss stories. My brain's tired all the time, and I don't have the endurance for other people's stories right now. I miss whatever that part of me is.
JJ: Thanks so much! The secondary part that is totally optional: Any interest in reading a book with me that falls outside of your standard categories and talking about what you do or don’t like about it? I know that’s a big time commitment, so no pressure. I’m also open to you picking a book and I’ll read it with you and tell you what I do or don’t like. Either way might be fun!
EO: I am tickled by your assignment. I would perhaps be open to reading a book, certainly open to suggestions. I can't promise I'll finish it. A good graphic novel perhaps?
JJ: I would love to read and discuss a graphic novel with you! I think this one might be gotten through your library system. What do you think? The Love Bunglers: http://www.fantagraphics.com/browse-shop/the-love-bunglers.html?vmcchk=1 I've been meaning to read Jaime Hernandez for forever and I’ve read this is an easy one to start with. I'm open to anything that might be of particular interest to you, too!
EO: I can't get it from the library. I'll look into ordering it.
JJ: OK - you can also let me know of a graphic novel that's easier to get, too! Lemme know!
EO: will do. i started reading the excerpt and liked it.
JJ: I read The Love Bunglers! But no pressure if it just doesn't work out! Let me know if you've gotten it and have had a chance to dig in and we can discuss!
EO: I haven't ordered it, yet. I can't get it at the Finger Lakes Library. I may get it, but don't hold your breath. I'm sorry! I would love so dearly to read and discuss with you.
*I did not pay her to say this.
To find out how our reading assignment went, stay tuned for "Non-Reader Spotlight: Elizabeth Olson, Part 2."