What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2010.

July 5, 2010

Let's Be Honest: Why My Sister Will Win

Kerry graciously enumerated the reasons why I had a "fighting chance" to win this contest, and while I appreciated her support, it struck me as being composed in the same tone my grandmother used when she complimented an unattractive woman for having "beautiful skin and lovely eyebrows." Let's not pretend this contest is a Clash of the Titans. This is less Bird vs. Johnson and more Bird vs. That Kid With the Stigmatism Who Is Pretty Good at HORSE When He Plays It With His Church League. Here is why:

  • My sister's extreme competitive spirit. When we were young, we used to play Parcheesi (aka "Poor Man's "Sorry!"). This consisted of Kerry immediately setting up a blockade in front of my four pieces so that she could skip her remaining two players around the board while I fruitlessly tried to roll doubles (the only way you could jump over a blockade in Parcheesi. This analogy now strikes me as being too dated to resonate with modern audiences. Oh well, it is all I have.)
  • My lack of said competitive spirit. During my brief tenure as a cross-country runner in high school, whenever I got passed during a race (a common occurrence), my thought was never to kick it into high gear and catch up but rather, "Wow! They're really fast. I should - hey, look! Clouds! Wait, am I going the right way?"
  • My love of sleep. Kerry has already mentioned how birds (aka the alarm clock she set the night before) woke her up at 4 in the morning, allowing her to finish "Ship Sooner." I love sleep too much for that to ever happen. I have slept through turbulence, roommates' dance rehearsals, and fire alarms. I am not about to ruin such a productive relationship for the sake of reading.
  • I don't like seeing my sister lose. The one time I ever beat Kerry in "Monopoly," somewhere around 1983, I felt so terrible about her slowly evaporating funds that I tried to sneak money into her bank. She swatted the money away and mortgaged another property, which so devastated me that we soon ended the game. But don't think Kerry is oblivious to my devotion to her success. In fact, she is already exploiting it, brazenly breaking one of her rules on only her second book. She knows I'm not going to challenge her. I have decided her reading "Ship Sooner" allows me to read one YA book under 300 pages during the course of the contest, unless of course she doesn't think that's okay.
  • Kerry has read everything and read it with ease. Kerry is the kind of person who, when you ask her if she's read "Ulysses," narrows her eyes and says, "Yeah, senior year in high school. Didn't you?" No, Kerry, I had to take a class with a roomful of retirees in order to make it through the literary masterpiece of the twentieth century, and even then I almost didn't finish it. It wasn't something I picked up when I was seventeen EVEN THOUGH YOUR TEACHER DIDN'T EVEN ASSIGN IT, ONLY CASUALLY MENTIONED THAT IT WAS A BOOK YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ SOME DAY.

Kerry knows I don't have the ruthless streak necessary to win this thing, even offering up her sole reading weakness - books where bad things happen to children - fully aware that I would never exploit this Achilles' Heel. I'm not sure which two books I'm going to have her read, but in the meantime, here are some excellent literary works where bad things happen to kids, if you're so inclined:

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes
The Little Friend, Donna Tartt
The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving
Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow
In the Woods, Tana French
A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh
Macbeth, William Shakespeare

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