It was a quiet Friday night, and my girlfriend was just putting the finishing touches on the pizza we’d made, and getting ready to throw it in the oven. Pizza dressed, and with nothing to do to help, I sat on the couch in a fugue, wondering what to do. Then, a thought occurred.
I walked to my backpack and pulled out the novella within. I’d brought it into work that day to show a friend, but as I looked it over, I thought, “Yeah, this is going to do just fine.”
I went out to the couch, sat down, and said, “Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan Maguire. Chapter One . . .” My girlfriend looked back and smiled as I started to weave together a new world for us to share. She sat down on the couch with me as I read a few more pages; the two of us kept smiling at each other.
She and I are huge readers, and though our tastes can vary from time to time, we’ve always gone back and forth about how fun it would be to read to one another. And while I’m reading this novella to her, I know that she’ll pick what she reads to me next, and so on. It’s definitely been a fun activity together, and only brings us closer as readers and as a couple.
If you’ve been thinking about reading to your significant other, or even with some friends as something new to try, here are a few handy tips and things I’ve realized as my girlfriend and I have embarked on this new, literary-oratory quest!
1 – Man, Books Are Long: I’m a fast reader. If I have the time and the will, I can rip through a thousand page book in three days (true story). But the minute you start reading something out loud, everything slows down to a snail’s pace. Suddenly you’re not reading chapters in an hour, but pages. The language gets in your teeth and your tongue, and will do its best to trip you up. Dialogue will change as you shift your voice for new characters, and setting description will snarl in the back of your throat as your brain does its best to translate to your mouth in time. So be wise in what you pick, and don’t bite off more than you can chew right away.
2 – Take Your Time, Pick Your Time: That said, enjoy it. Take your time with the reading, and invest in it, for you and your partner. Taste the language, the seasoning of adjectives, the lush poetry that is rocketing you both through a new world. There’s no rush. But be aware of when you’re reading, too. Too late in the day, and after a few paragraphs both you and partner may find yourselves yawning.
3 – Be Ready To Blush: I’ll be honest, I’m not a very shy man. As a goof with a background in comedy improv, theatre, and stand up, I have a very high bar for what will embarrass me. But still, the minute I said the word “masturbate,” out loud to my girlfriend while reading, I grew a furious crimson and had to stop for a moment. (Yes, my girlfriend laughed at this, but only a little.) You can’t account for the author and you can’t account for what they’ve written. You can only do justice to their words, and you must be prepared to say any number of them. Luckily, I got over it and jumped back into the amazing story. (So far, I’ve talked about sex, blood, gender, identity, murder, fairylands, underworlds, school, sinister plots, and trying to live life after a magical adventure. This novella is awesome, you guys).
4 – People Are Going To Look: One late summer weekend, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in Central Park, as the sun was setting, with a blanket and extra time. So of course, I started reading to her, and it was incredibly nice. It felt like every sincere, beautiful moment in a movie that you just want to freeze forever and enjoy. Only after did I realize that while I’d been reading, there had been folks looking over and listening. It didn’t ruin the moment, not at all, but be aware that if you start reading in a public space, especially in y’know, Central Park, folks will want to know what’s up. So, just be prepared for heads to turn at the sound of your golden and mellifluous voice!
5 – Enjoy It!: Reading out loud to my girlfriend has been a wonderful, amazing experience. I’m so much more aware of the sentences, the words, the poetry and beauty in the story itself. I love to put on different voices for characters, and I love to make her laugh, make her fall deeper into the story with me. It has brought us closer together, and helped us find a way to share our passion for books outside of a bookstore or a reading. It has knit us even tighter as a couple, and gives us another wonderful thing to do on a rainy day. I love to read to her, because it makes me a better, more attentive reader, (and writer). If you have a partner who shares your love of literature, I whole-heartedly believe you should give this a try!
And if you don’t have a partner at the moment, bring a book to a large, public park, start reading out loud, and see who notices you. You never know who you may meet!