Full Disclosure: A New Chapter

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Over the past few years, New Canaan’s best kept secret has been the library’s well-guarded renovation plans.

I had been anxiously awaiting the official reveal, after hearing murmurings of its impressive overhaul. Fortunately, the library’s recent video unveiling did not disappoint—I found it more riveting than many of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies.

I haven’t been this excited about a library in…ever.

The virtual renderings struck me as ambitious, as the broad scope of the plans and campus-like vibe took me by surprise. The Midcentury Modern-inspired library reincarnation is fully loaded, amenity-packed and comprehensive, meeting the diverse needs of every New Canaanite—well, perhaps not those who wish to save the original facade.

While I am a fan of the iconic stone building and hope that it can be rehomed somewhere like the Historical Society, I am simply too dazzled by the new, expansive plans to throw myself in front of a wrecking ball.

From the glamorous look of things, this new community center for learning, gathering and sharing is “all things to all people,” and I am fully on board. My support should speak volumes (pun intended) as a closeted bibliophobe.

One of my darkest secrets is that I am severely book-shy. While I enjoy writing, I am not a bookworm. I’m more of a book-armadillo. Ask me to read anything of length or substance and I roll up into a protective ball. I’ll even admit that I have visited the New Canaan Library more times to use its ladies room as a rest stop than to actually check out a book for myself. My inability to derive joy from reading is a source of shame and it has plagued me ever since my Berenstain Bears days.

I was never diagnosed with a reading disability as a child, so I forged on, doing my best, and only tackled the bare minimum of required reading. My father, however, was a voracious reader and relentless book-pusher. I was pressured into reading highbrow novels that my father misguidedly hand-selected from the New Canaan Library’s adult section. These torture-tomes were chosen without any regard for my reading ability or range of interests, and resulted in a lifelong aversion.

There’s “Centennial” by James Michener, on a shelf at New Canaan Library. Credit: Susan Gelvin

Case in point: While my parents were busy planning an epic, Griswaldian family car trip across the country, my father assigned required reading to make the experience more magical. To prepare me for The West and establish himself as the world’s worst amateur children’s librarian, my dad presented me (a 7-year-old anti-reader) a 1,000-plus-page historical fiction novel by James Michener, Centennial. This was an act of war.

Like most books I refuse to read, Centennial began with endless accounts of land formation and specific regional geological phenomena. Once dinosaurs and primitive man were finally introduced, my will to live was nearing its end. I avoided reading Centennial at all costs. It was my kryptonite. The abused copy (sorry, NC Library) was “lost” repeatedly and would miraculously reappear when my TV privileges were revoked. In the end, I never finished the novel—and never will.

It’s uncertain whether I was conditioned to dislike reading or if there is an underlying problem.

My personal nature versus nurture debate will have to rage on as I will never get to the bottom of this conundrum. Though, with the promise of a new, souped-up New Canaan Library, I may have an opportunity to create new, positive experiences with literature and rid myself of the forced reading trauma of my childhood. The promise of a cafe, luxe lounge spaces, and a swanky rooftop terrace have just the kind of allure that this bibliophobe needs to overcome some serious book-baggage. This may be the type of immersion therapy that I have so desperately needed to start a new chapter.

However, please note, should you find me in the plush, new historical fiction section, curled up with a James Michener novel, please direct yourself to the nearest bomb shelter, or the new underground parking lair, because the apocalypse is coming.

4 thoughts on “Full Disclosure: A New Chapter

  1. It is a mystery how a gifted writer like you does not enjoy getting swallowed by a good book! Love your honesty and hilarious stories!! I’ll hang with you in the swanky cafe – we can start slow with “The Bernstein Bears”!

  2. Haha! This just sent me back to my childhood – I had completely forgotten about Michener! I read a LOT of Michener as a tween. But it was sort of my choice – I read everything I could get my hands on, my parents wouldn’t bring me to the library very often and my dad always bought Michener to read on his many trips to Asia. Michener and all of the Dune books. I need to read them again! Or hang out with your dad.

  3. I love books but never read them only collect for a day that’s special, (when ever that will be). I love being at the library, it’s like a second home. The folks who work there are warm and welcoming. I’m there mostly on the computer creating digital art, for that is what I am an artist & photographer. It also gets me out of the house.
    I just hope I’m around when the rebuilding is done. It looks like another
    Glass House…
    Norm Jensen

  4. Another great one Suzie! Though it’s still a mystery how you are such a gifted writer but hate reading books. Thanks for the laughs and for your honesty!

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