I, too, feel a little bit guilty about my reading habits after hearing about Zoel’s completion of the Lord of the Rings series (see Gina’s side over there). Here, on this side of the ocean, Noah is burning through the Artemis Fowl books (this past weekend he read two of them). I share this tidbit with you not in an attempt to keep up with Gina’s story, but to echo the awe I have in the tenacity of our 11 year olds: Boys. Who aren’t supposed to want to be reading. Reading. (And READING!) is a testament to something awesome. School. Opportunity. Intelligence. Most likely, extraordinary parenting.
There’s always a pile of books on the table next to my bed, waiting to be consumed. Books that I’d like to finish at a quick clip, the way our boys devour fantasies and tales of dragons and wizardry. Lately I’ve not been very successful. A few of the tomes collected there I’ve read thoroughly. Cover to cover. Usually in a couple of days. Others I’ve tunneled into a few times, satisfied after consuming a bit of their soft, chewy nougat centers, but unable or indifferent about spending too much time with them. Most, I return to the library…dusty and untouched.
I’m not sure if my lack of follow through with books comes from disinterest or mistaken selection or just plain laziness on my part, but it bums me out. I used to be a voracious reader. Used to be. Before so many words were available on my computer and on my phone. It is so much easier to read little snippets of ideas and stories online. Tweets. Statuses on Facebook. The comment section at Jezebel. Beginnings and middles and ends are tied up there in a paragraph or two, or in one sentence or a dozen craftily placed characters.
Lately my reading habits and hopes could be likened to a wish for the power of osmosis; a hope that if I just place the book next to my head, its contents and wisdom will automatically be transferred to my brain. Want the wisdom of an 800 page book about peri-menapause? No problem. Just check the book out from the library and sleep next to it for a few nights. Hoping to understand the nuances of the latest short fiction prize winner out of Iowa? No problem! Just download a (discounted) copy to iBooks and open the app. Of course reality doesn’t work that way and all I really have to show for my lazy ways is an impressive collection of eBooks and a hefty library fine.
I think that the commitment to and practice of reading that these two middles school boys of ours seem to possess points to some things that I’ve somehow lost: a willingness to allow a story to take me out of my present state of mind, to enjoy it (or even to not-enjoy it), to learn, to see beyond myself and to stick with it. Somewhere along the road of trying to become a writer myself, I stopped letting other people’s stories matter. I started to focus too much on technique and on the craft; on trying to glean the secret to literary success by imagining a code, an invented formula for arranging words on a page that some people are privy to; a system that leads to their stories being bound and printed and shared. I was finding myself not so much interested in the authors’ stories, than in how they got it published in the first place.
A few posts ago I wrote about my hope to read more (and internet-surf less )and I’m happy to say that I’ve been somewhat successful at the challenge. I’ve started to make my way through our three month stack of New Yorkers in the living room. I’ve also become more finicky about the books I put by my bed. Here are some notes on my current reads:
- The Great Work of Your Life is the tamest in the collection of titles I have lined up on the floor next to my bed that have to do with spirituality, souls, self-improvement, self-help and god. I’m about 3/4 of the way through. (Expect to finished by spring.)
- The Gift is an extraordinary book that has to do with creativity and writing and making a life, but it’s a high-calorie snack that I only imbibe in once in awhile. When I do, however, I consistently come away with a nugget of something wise and true. (Expect to be finished by the end of the year.)
- Donna Tartt’s first book called The Secret History is extraordinary and fun. I’m hoping her latest, The Goldfinch, lives up the the reviews I’ve heard about it.
- Ray and I watched Capote not too long ago–wishing to bask in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s shadow for a bit. The movie was pretty great. And reminded me that I have always wanted to read In Cold Blood--the book upon which the movie was based. Also a book that I’ve had on my shelf for years. I started it but then put it down. We’ll see…
- And poetry. (This week its Bukowski and the translation of a Tuscan poet.) These are the books have no problem devouring, no matter the fat content.
Here’s hoping for a word-filled month!