Not your average bedtime story…
Dear Awesome Advice Central,
After I retired last year, I decided to get involved in volunteer work in my neighbourhood. There’s a School for the Blind nearby, and I thought, “What a perfect fit! The hours are good, it’s within walking distance and it’s a worthwhile cause.” So I signed up for courses to become a full-time volunteer.
Did you know that there’s a huge need for readers at these schools? After my training, I was paired with a sweet older lady.
Paula reminds me of Miss Marple—soft, woolly and pink, as I think Agatha Christie described her.
My job is to sit with my blind partner and read her a chapter or two of her favourite books. The sessions are taped and edited so the audio books can be shared around the school later.
On my first day of reading, Paula had a book ready for me. She told me, “It’s a classic, dear, so sit down, turn to page one, and let’s get this party started!”
How amusing she was! I picked up the book, and my first thought was that it was a little risqué…but she was right, it was indeed a classic back in the 60s: Lolita.
Trying my best to ignore the more repugnant aspects of the story, I managed to finish the book in the course of a week. I thought, once we’d finished, Paula might prefer a non-fiction book. Or perhaps a light-hearted drawing room farce, such as dear P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves & Wooster.
Instead, with a sly grin, Paula handed me Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying with its infamous Zipless F….oh, dear, I can’t even bring myself to write it. I’m sure you remember the term I mean. I read this book myself as a young woman, and wasn’t looking forward to some of the more, what’s the word, salacious moments and tight clinches in the story.
Once we’d finished, I felt I’d never stop blushing in Paula’s presence. Frankly, her taste in books was beginning to make me nervous. Each time I’d walk into her room, it would be on shaking legs.
Next on Prurient Paula’s list was Henry James’s Tropic of Cancer (which is NOT a book about astronomy, I have found out). That’s when I went to my bosses and asked if I could be moved to another reading partner, someone with more mainstream reading tastes.
They refused. It was either continue with Porno Paula or leave the School. I really don’t want to quit as I have so little to occupy my time these days. I love my job, love the reading and the camaraderie, but hate the books I’m being forced to read.
Worse, I hate the idea that my sessions are being taped for the world to hear! You have no idea how soul-destroying it is to hear this sweet-looking, elderly horn-dog whispering to me, “Yes, yes, read that bit again…slowly…slowly….” It makes my skin crawl.
Oh, the humiliation.
I just discovered that today we’re about to start a real pot-boiler by Pauline Reage, The Story of O. This one makes 50 Shades of Grey look like Goodnight, Moon! Honestly, I just cannot take any more.
My question to you today is twofold, then:
1) How can I get Paula’s mind out of the gutter and into the real classics, and
2) How can I fulfill my duty in reading the books, without having my name associated with the recordings? I really can’t bear the idea of my voice being linked with those “works of art.”
Dear Prudence, (Oh, how we have longed to start an answer with that salutation—thank you!)
First, we must commend you on your choice of après-retirement occupations. We heartily approve of this sort of volunteerism, not to mention your forbearance (thus far) in sticking with your reading partner’s choice of fiction.
We sympathize with your situation, as we personally abhor the collected works of Stephanie Meyer, and cannot imagine being forced to read—let alone read aloud!—those dreadful Nightlight books, or whatever they’re called.
But we can understand Porno Paula’s situation equally well.
As the old saying goes, “Just because there’s snow on the roof, don’t imagine there’s no fire in the furnace!” We understand that elderly people are now being permitted to keep their carnal urges long past the usual age of retirement, and we can only cheer this development as a step forward for womankind. And men, too, of course.
So we’re afraid we cannot really suggest that you cease reading these books—but we can think of a way for you to avoid being publicly associated with them forever after. It will take some work on your part, but we think you’re up to it, as you’ve displayed remarkable fortitude thus far.
Here’s what you do: when you start reading your next epic sexual romp, you must lower your voice, adopt a husky, dare we even say sexy, tone…and let ‘er rip. We want you to imagine you’re auditioning for a part in a B Grade porno flick. Breathe heavily into the mike. Pause longingly over suggestive words and phrases. Whisper the dialogue, press your lips as close to the microphone as you can, caress the words with your tongue.
The whole nine yards.
We believe…no, we guarantee! that when your version of the book is reviewed, it will be instantly discarded. And if luck is on your side, you might suddenly find yourself reassigned to a Jane Austen fan. Fingers crossed.
And, um, if you’d like to send us the tapes when you’re done, we’ll be happy to review them for you. As a free service, you know.