A Year of Reading Carefully

I love to read and always have.  Even in college and grad school, when I was supposed to be doing “meaningful” things, I found time to read books for pleasure.  I am an indiscriminate reader.  I will read anything you put in front of me.  I read critically acclaimed books, best-selling trade fiction, young adult books and books that are really children’s books but that I tell myself are young adult books.  I read newspaper articles, magazine articles, blogs, menus.  If it’s got words, I’m engrossed.

But the problem with being an indiscriminate reader is that I am often a careless, thoughtless one.  I very regularly read things and then forget I’ve read them.  I don’t process things when I read, I devour them. I’m also a multi-tasker, as so many of my generation are.  I read while I watch TV, or while I’m supposed to be having conversations with other people.  My mania knows no bounds.

So, in the spirit of renewal and resolution in the new year, I’ve decided to become a blogger.  I’m going to (try to) write every day about something that I’ve read in an effort to be more mindful.  Not everything will be a deep, post-colonial treatise on the important writing of our time.  But I’ll try.

So what did I read today?  Most of the Sunday Times (thank you to my lovely husband who got me a weekender subscription for Christmas last year!).  Some of the current book I’m reading (Poser by Claire Dederer which is a lovely memoir that I’m sure I’ll write about at a later date).

One of the articles that struck me in the Times today was this one, about the power of performance and reinvention to bring new life to old words.  I’ve never been a big fan of Hamlet, and so when I skimmed the beginning of this article, I was tempted to skip it.  It was actually the commentary beneath the article, about readers’ experiences with reinterpretation, that made me give the article a second glance.  Like Brantley, I think all readers have our favorites–those plays, novels, poems etc that strike a chord within us.  We remember where we were when we first heard or read them.  We remember the moment that they first entered our consciousness, and that first experience is, very often, our most powerful.  The reinterpretation of these moments can be disconcerting at worst, or perception-changing at best.  One of those moments, for me, is the end of The Great Gatsby.  I love that last line, with its hope and possibility.  We will continue to strive for the thing we want.  We will continue to reach for that green light.  As a freshman in college, I had a late night talk with a friend about that line (how wonderfully collegiate we seemed at the time, discussing Fitzgerald over tea in the Village).  I spoke about its hope for me and about what it represented.  The indomitable will of the human spirit.  My friend scoffed.  For him, it was not about the indomitable will at all.  It was about the futility of the human experience.  We will constantly strive for things we know we cannot get.  We will constantly fail.

In the years since, I’ve tried to reject my friend’s reading.  When I reread Gatsby (as I do more often than I care to admit), I swoon over Fitzgerald’s prose and try to convince myself that Scott (for of course that’s how close we are) wants me to believe in the triumph of the human imagination at the end.  But I always leave the novel colored by my experiences as a freshman in college.

So that was my reading for today.  Who knows what literary wonders tomorrow will bring.

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2 Comments

Filed under Newspapers

2 responses to “A Year of Reading Carefully

  1. Ryan

    love the blog! keep it going! I love links to good articles so keep them coming.

  2. Capt. Georg VonTrapp

    Happy New Year!

    I read Gatsby for the first time this past summer. I’ve written three sentences trying to describe how I feel about it. (One even used the word “adjutant”- erroneously) I enjoyed it.
    Can’t really remember anything about it other than a car, a party and some questionable geography- but I enjoyed it.

    Patricia T Oconnor is on the Lopate show twice monthly and she sits down with her oed and plays what I’m nearly certain is a broad game of Balderdash. Try to catch it, wnyc.org.

    As far as being a part of a multitasking generation: I currently have a book open in front of me, the TV on, pasta in the microwave and twice have switched out of my explorer to answer text messages…spit-spot.

    I have never read the same book twice…I have REALLY read a book once after saying I had read it or walking it around like a baby or some form of boutique pet-a parrot or a monkey say- making those around me think I was reading it. Being so super casual about it so that if someone should feel the need to comment on the bird shitting on my shoulder and down my back or Unbearable Lightness (that’s what its friends call it) as it “accidentally” spilled out of my Proust tote bag bedecked with an “=” bookmark-I would just shrug it off with a little “oh, yeah it is isn’t” that would at once be an affirmation that I was smart and interesting and that I wasn’t the only one out there who thought so and/or was. That never did happen- nor did anything even close to it. Like the guy who takes the cobra to the flea market hoping to score…I still have that line I’ve been rehearsing that would make their heads spin…if only they would care enough to remark. Yet like the 300lb man holding a snake- a 14year old “reading” existential fiction the basic result is “Meh”.

    Pasta’s done, we’re back from commercial and I’m working on dead-line(Yeah- I said it.) Apologies for hijacking your first post but its been a long boring weekend and I miss actually discussing things with you so…there.

    KEEP WRITING!

    -DV

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