Reading as Practice for Reading
I have hoped that the blog format of writing will prove freeing for me. I’m sitting here with my slight belly tight against the front of my shirt, my dog in my lap (he will be in and out as I write this, I’m sure), my mind on the tea and scones I’m about to eat at our favorite tea shop, allowing myself to write these observations down without second-guessing them. Thinking of the best way to phrase each observation is of course part of the work, so blogging, so far, has not been an exercise in complete mental transcription, which I don’t find too fun or useful; but rather a space to write things with a built-in reminder to not judge myself or the things I write too harshly.
With that reminder in mind (haha), I’d like to write about reading. I’m currently working through Brothers Karamazov at the behest of my fiancee’s little brother. It’s taking me a little bit, but I certainly enjoy it. Outside of the content of the book, which I’ll write about when I finish (or maybe I should start writing about it as I work through it? Hmm), the experience of reading has been salient in a way it hasn’t been before. What I think’s happening is I’ve been spending so much time away from books, quiet spaces, quiet moments, and away from the inside of my own head as I learned to code and as I started my job in security, that sitting down to just read—one of my favorite ways to spend time and thought—I’ve realized just how much I’ve neglected reading, and how much reading is something you need to practice.
I started Karamazov a while ago and squeezed about 100 diffcult pages out before I got distracted by work or video games or some other such thing. So picking it back up to finish the last 677 pages, already deep into the set up, has made my experience then at the beginning quite clear in contrast to my experience now. Well, now as in a couple weeks ago when I picked the book back up. I couldn’t focus for very long, even though I was excited to start reading—any free moment when I could slip the book out of my bag, moments I’d daydream about and then pounce on, would only last a matter of pages before my eyes would drift to my computer or phone or just away. When I was a child, I would marathon entire long books. My parents would need to remind me to eat, or would check on me to make sure I was asleep on school nights and not up reading in the middle of the night. I don’t do that anymore, and technology is, I think, an obvious suspect, and definitely contributes to the short attention span I have now, but I also think I need more practice. My memories of being a kid, reading all day, are built upon the stuff I don’t remember from when I was even younger, when my mom would read to me and I would apparently, as these are not my memories but those of my mother, re-read the books my mom read me. Put another way, my memories start with all-day reading sessions, but I wasn’t born with that ability. I learned it from my mom, developed it as a little tiny kid, and kept reading, which in turn made me a more discerning and capable reader, and on and on. Until, of course, I got older and more distracted and whatever.
So here’s to more practice! In my senior year of college I made a similar commitment to read more, especially classics that I’d missed in my English degree, and it was wonderful. This is when I finally read my favorite books, Moby Dick and Jane Eyre—I probably read more that year than I have in the last six combined. So, again, here’s to more practice, and to writing about the books I’m reading as another practice exercise on top of the reading itself.
Quote of the Week
There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.
—Herman Melville, from Moby Dick