philthecow: (hitchcock)
[personal profile] philthecow
Well, today was a monumental day for my personal reading history.

My mother is extremely nearsighted, and with my family history on top of my obsessive reading habits, people have always been surprised that I don't have glasses, and for me it's been a source of pride. Being surrounded by a bunch of geeks at Swarthmore and beforehand, there have been times when I've been in the minority in not having glasses. But it looks like my reading has finally caught up with me.

I've been having trouble reading the blackboard and menus on the wall and other things for a while now, but I didn't think it could be a problem, so I didn't mention it to my family until this weekend, when we were at an off-Broadway musical (Gutenberg: The Musical, as a matter of fact) and I couldn't read the names on these hats that were on a table on the stage. I think my dad said "Do you see the hat on the edge? That's a good name!" and I said "You can see those?" and simultaneously everybody looked at me and said "You can't?"

So we made an appointment with the eye doctor, who explained that I had developed some near-sightedness.
Doctor: This happens to a lot of students because they have to do a lot of close work. Do you have to do a lot of reading?
Lauren: You have no idea.
Doctor: Your eyes are probably going to continue to deteriorate. One of the things you can do to arrest that deterioration is after every ten minutes of reading, to take a ten-second break where you focus your eyes on something far away. Somebody who did this religiously even had his eyesight improve! I don't expect that to happen to you, though.
Lauren: Uhhhh... OK.

So now I have to carry around glasses to use when I'm driving, looking at a blackboard, or trying to see anything else far away. Not too bad, I guess. When they gave me the glasses (cute brown-and-blue frames!) and I put them on, I was shocked to be able to start to read a diploma six feet away that had just looked like a gray blur before. Driving home with my mom, I put on my glasses, and blurry trees by the side of the road suddenly had branches. I didn't realize how poorly I could see until somebody told me.

I'm glad we figured this out now, before I crashed the car or something, but I feel like this is my fault for reading too much, and that's upsetting. How can I possibly avoid reading? There's not many other things I know how to do.

We haven't thought about this at all in class, but it seems like the history of glasses would probably parallel the history of reading in some striking ways. I know they were invented in the West during the late 13th century, but when did they improve and how? I'm newly nearsighted, which means that reading is easier for me than other things, but I know a lot of people who are far-sighted, and I know that past a certain age almost everyone needs reading glasses. Were eye problems less common before the widespread diffusion of reading, or did it just become more obvious once people had to read? I imagine forms of close work like needlework would require similar exertions of the eyes. Of course, people also died earlier then, so you had less time for your eyes to get old and blurry. Many questions to answer--the relationship between glasses and reading would be an interesting research topic.

What I'm reading: I finished Lucky, I read a few books about the Elgin Marbles, and I'm working on Measuring the World, which I was intrigued by because it's a "magical realist novel by a German." Imagine a depressed and overly intellectual Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and you have the idea.
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December 2008

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