I chickened out.
Some part of my reptile brain just wouldn’t let me pull a comic book out of my satchel and start reading it during a final exam in a university classroom. Instead, I took out the latest issue of the literary journal Granta and started reading that.
Sure, if somebody said to me, “Are you reading a comic book?” I could have, and would have, said, “Well, it’s actually a graphic novel. I’m just reading it for a writing assignment, actually.”
That would have been a weaselly response, though, one that was trying to appease some assumptions that I loathe, one that was trying to overcome a certain sense of shame. There’s no shame in reading comics in general, and there’s certainly no shame in reading The Sandman.
But by censoring myself, I acted as if there were. I’ve published writings about popular culture for nearly a decade now, I’ve been writing these Sandman Meditations for over a year, and I’ve assigned students to read comics, popular novels, and even movie tie-ins. Just a week ago, I was on a panel discussion at this very university where I exhorted our English majors to read as widely as possible, saying that someone who reads both Dickens and Harlequin Romances is more literate than someone who only reads one or the other. If there is one person who should have no shame sitting in a university classroom with a copy of The Kindly Ones, it’s me. And yet I stopped myself from doing so.