Notes from a Poly-Reader: April 2017

So I missed the Sunday Circle this week because travel/lazy/buh, but I did manage to pick up my reading this past week, which is making me feel fantastic. This year has been the most ridiculous reading year so far. I just…haven’t had the desire. I mean, AT ALL. If this were a sex thing and in the ’50s, they’d have had me in to a Freudian psychotherapist AGES ago. (“Tell me about the books your mother read to you…”)

I’ve been thinking about why this is for a long time now. There are a few theories I can come to: 1) that spending a significant amount of time in the evening writing saps me of the desire to spend my downtime afterwards looking at more words; 2) that due to the very nature of my evenings being somewhat constricted in time anyway, writing for an hour or two simply cannibalizes what would have been (and used to be) my reading time when I was struggling to just write ten to twenty minutes a day; 3) that having picked up knitting at the turn of the year–right about the time the reading dropped off–I’ve been using time during the day when in the past I might have been reading, and am instead playing with yarn.

My mother has a saying, or a theory of her own–we’re a family of theorists, apparently–that there’s no such thing as a life in perfect balance: all one can do is sense the shift in weight from one side to the other and course-correct as needed. Ideally, you just get good at sensing those shifts, so they’re less earth-shaking when you readjust.

So I’m trying to readjust. I got a new Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas from my fantastic mother-in-law, but I haven’t been putting it to good use. I’ve got a fantastic library just minutes from my house that has nearly everything, but I’ve been dragging my feet about going (“But it’s downtown, and I hate driving downtown, and remember those two times when there wasn’t ANY PARKING AT ALL and we had to come home, what if that happens again?! Waaaaa!”). I’ve got a HUGE BOOKSHELF full of unread books, and I haven’t even considered picking one up and reading it.

SO. I figured out how to rent e-books from the library, and started reading on the Kindle at night.* I took Bug to the library, and raided their classics and SF and literary thought departments. And then, like a madwoman, I KonMari’d my bookshelf, leaving only one set of eleven books that I haven’t yet read, but which I’ve been carrying around (some of them, literally for over a decade) because I really, really, really feel like I want to read them. I’m calling it my Death Row, because if I haven’t read them by the end of this year, they get donated. It’s been strangely liberating. Now instead of being overwhelmed by an entire bookshelf of to-read books, I’ve got one shelf I can go to directly, pick something out to read, and go for it.

And I’ve started looking to see where I can fit reading in during the day, rather than expecting to have the energy or focus at night. I also haven’t shied away from shorter books in the hopes that a few wins (like the debt snowball technique) will energize my drive to keep reading regularly.

At the moment, I’m reading just five books (though I’ve got four other library books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, so I’m hoping to jump on those, soon!), which is a pretty small number for me on a good reading year when I flux between six and ten:


Mrs. Dalloway – I’m really close to finishing this one, maybe just twenty or thirty pages left. I’ve really enjoyed this one–something about this type of novel, the stream-of-consciousness, the leaping from viewpoint to viewpoint to show the complexities of society around us, and oh! those delicious moments like lightning when it strikes you: Oh…I’m like this! or I’ve seen this before in real life! or I’ve met people just like X! It’s like it sinks little hooks into your soul and anchors itself there. Really special.

The Walls Around Us – This one was recommended by a writing teacher of mine when I tried to tackle a plural-“we” main narrator in an as-yet unpublished story, and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for ages. Finally did, via e-book and the lovely Kindle, and I am so glad I did. It’s DARK, like Black Swan dark, but I’m really captivated by it so far. Ballerinas, manslaughter, prison–it’s a bizarre and beautifully written book, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

A Room of One’s Own – Just started this one a bit ago, in conjunction with Mrs. Dalloway, as part of my “catch-up” reading for the Great Courses DVD series I started a few months ago. I’ve never read Virginia Woolf until now (“WHAT? You got an English Degree in College and NEVER read V-Woolf? HOW?!” A very good question.), and am really glad I’m getting the chance. The stream of consciousness in this essay is a bit tougher to completely wrap my head around, but I’m getting there. I just can’t read it while Bug’s watching TV–too distracting!

Acceptance – The last and (I believe) final chapter of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and I’m having a very fine time. I’m not sure I like this one as much as the first or second–both of those were narrated by a single protagonist, and I liked the extended intimacy. This one splits the POV between…four…maybe four plus five if you count the journal entry that occupies five short chapters in the middle. It is enjoyable, especially in seeing how all the various narrators of previous books now connect in this one, and it’s a grand bring-it-all-around kind of book. I am looking forward to how one ends this kind of story, because it seems so unlikely to have any kind of ending… I guess I’ll have to see! I’m about on the last third of this one.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – I’ve been slacking on this one, but I really, really love it whenever I pick it up, so I really just need to commit some devoted time to it. The THINGS it makes me think! Really, it’s a fantastic introduction into not only Greek myth, but also into all the complexities of individual retellings of said myths, since there are half-a-dozen variations on almost every story. It’s illuminating, and I seriously need to give it some love. I’m about a sixth into this one, I think…

But that’s all for now! Here’s to happy reading and a happy Spring!

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