#SlowReader

img_1695

There’s this neat trick that some of the websites have (I’ve usually seen it on Fast Company links, but you may have seen it in other stories), where somewhere in the top mess of advertisements and notations there is a statement of how long it will take the reader to consume the piece they are about to review.  I’ve always found these estimations a bit off; is this the estimation for the regular skimmer, or the reader like myself who sits and savors?

And I do savor.  I savor to the point of rumination.  I “close read,” which is what my advisor in college used to call it, not because I knew he would test me on something obscure and ridiculous (he wasn’t that kind of professor), but because he wanted everyone involved in discussion and he wanted us to be prepared for a round of devil’s advocate.  I didn’t want to miss the devil’s advocate in the text–I wanted to be prepared for it AND I wanted to see the writer pull from both sides of the coin (neat trick!)–so I read closely.  Also, I always felt that I was less intelligent than the other students because I was an unconventional student (read, older).  And literature was my major. So…it took me a long time to get my homework done.

It still takes me a long time to read.  I feel like I’m going to miss something if I don’t sit with it, even with books that top out at 160 pages.  Things that take a long time to do try my patience.  I’m also a writer, which is a craft that takes time to get right.  In today’s attention-deficient world, time-consuming stuff can be a problem if you want to feel some sense of accomplishment.  Still, it’s a lesson I am determined to learn…even in the face of glittering reporting on social media.

*****

Every year on January 1st the book-related websites and apps reach out to readers:  “What are your reading goals for this year?” In most cases they are called “challenges,” a long way from the bookworms we’d construct as kids with round pieces of colored paper at the library or in our elementary classrooms.  Some challenges are just numbers (Goodreads) and some have specifics (Book Riot’s Read Harder) that force the reader to read something they normally wouldn’t.  I find the numbers thing somewhat turnstile, even though this year I’m shooting for the same number that I would have read in my college days; how is one supposed to be changed or moved by literature that is skimmed to make a quota?  For the specifics’ challenges, I’m usually challenged enough by the fact that I’m hearing about books from a wide variety of sources:

  • My local independent bookstores;
  • Podcasts;
  • The New York Times’ book section;
  • Best new lists and themed lists off of Twitter or pictured in a stack on Instagram (Facebook for some reason doesn’t provoke me to read much);
  • What people I know are reading on Goodreads.

If I went with a specifics’ challenge, I would never read anything in my TBR (to be read) pile, or…I would never find a book by pick-up in the bookstore or library.

*****

I have always had this nifty gift of find the book I most need at the time when I most need it (even in college this phemonenon was more or less true).  Sometimes, needing it, I keep in longer than others might, dwelling with it.  I recently did this with Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, even though I ended up gobbling it in the last 100 pages.   I think my challenge for 2019 isn’t so much how much I can read, or how varied I am, but what I can glean from my reading…getting back to close reading.  Yes, maybe it will take me two or three renewals to finish Adam Bede, or maybe I’ll need to snap out of the habit of reading six books at once.  I think the challenge lies in developing my pace and keeping it, in the face of a world rushing through accomplishment.

Here’s to spending time with books.

Advertisements

#Post2016


Ah, yes, year in review.  I didn’t have such a bad 2016, although it was disappointing.  I took a chance and tried another job, one that pays better and has cheaper insurance and sits closer to the home base (would we really call it home?) and allows me to work from home occasionally for the first time, but…like the last job it isn’t the job description I was promised.  I was promised analyst, and I’m still Band-Aid girl for the agent statistics, making up numbers to cover up boo-boos, and a different set of leadership is scratching their heads wondering why desired results can’t be obtained.

There were other disappointments, too, but they were more of learning experiences.  I would go into greater detail on these little growth spurts, but they are probably going to carry into 2017 and some days I fall off of them like their surfaces got slippery.  Rome wasn’t built overnight and I’m sure they had to stop occasionally due to rain.

I’m about halfway through my own personal Colesium, you might say, and I had to tear down another parking garage before I could start building this thing, so I’m a bit behind.

But I’m getting more efficient at the brick-laying.

*****

To revert back to the standard updates in the posts…here is what I have been doing lately (the continuous nod to Jamaica Kincaid):

Books:  I’m reading The New Yorker, New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post, but never fast enough.  I’m also working my way through Barbarian Days:  A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan.  I’m reading this book for the same reason that people see the movie Raging Bull when they don’t like boxing; I am not a fan of surfing and probably never will be and yet this book kind of fills in the gaps like caulk.  Finnegan is one hell of a writer, and I love his stuff in The New Yorker, and occasionally he “diversifies” as he calls it in the text and you get less surfing and more of the rest of it.  It helps that I now know where most of these places are (minus Hawaii, and I’m not sure I want to take that one for a spin).  I think of Finnegan’s passion for surfing as comparable to mine of baseball; we can hold our own at a bar with our respective topics of expertise, but we will mute ourselves after a bit if a blow-hard steps in.

Sometimes humility is better, although it’s more and more seen as weakness.

Music:  For some reason I’m on a Florence + the Machine kick (blame the film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), but other stuff beats on–Miranda Lambert (damn, Jo’s back in country stuff!), Childish Gambino’s latest album, Beyoncé on shuffling repeat.  A week or so back I was on an “Angel of the Morning” kick (covered by various artists).

Film:  I enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children more than I thought I would (kind of wary of Mr. Burton’s films, but this one and Big Eyes were pretty good).  I’ve watched a little Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, naturally, and a movie called A Dangerous Method that seemed a bit on the clinical side for being all about sex and Freud and Jung.  I saw Fences and was fine until Viola Davis got in Denzel’s face and my struggle with 44 years of men helping themselves to me made me cry.  That was nothin’ compared to Moonlight, though, which, for a movie that has very little CGI and no storm troopers was the best piece of cinema I have ever seen in my life.  No “probably,” no “in my humble opinion;” I’m owning this one.  Moonlight was complete genius.  We’ve seen film after film of minority communities, of drug culture, of LGBTQ issues, of feminist struggle, and then a director and a playwright from the same part of Miami get together and get it right.  They just effortlessly execute it and make it look like “Duh, this is what you meant,” and the pure, bald-faced news of the story was like Viola Davis’s speech in Fences for TWO HOURS.  There’s an introvert in Chiron, an unloved in Chiron, an observer in Chiron, and there’s a part of every life in him.  Someone finally got the engine streamlined.

Social media:  I’m present less and less on all of the platforms, and spending more time sitting in coffee shops, bars, and restaurants actually talking to people.  Yesterday was magical (magestical?  I saw Hunt for the Wilder People too) in that I took a Lyft (ridesharing as a microcosm) to a newish restaurant in Carlsbad called Campfire (recommended by friends in the East Village) and sat at the bar.  I have been sitting at the bar for years; bartenders are a wonderous lot to me, and not just for the booze.  As I was munching and imbibing, two little boys climbed on the bar stools next to me and ordered shots of milk.  One boy was 4 and the other was 6; the 4-year-old was from here and quiet, and the 6-year-old was from the UK and could speak the Queen’s English and Japanese.  These are the wonders I moved west for, and some days I find them.  

I find I have more time to read and write as well, being off the snark sites more and more, and at some point it’s probably just going to be my blogs and that’s it.  So…much…judgment on social media.  I’m reminded of high school, and I hated high school.  My happiest days were college, where my best friends were classmates and professors and a former Californian who told me I didn’t know anything from university and that I should feel lucky to have any friends or lovers at all because I wasn’t beautiful and took after my father in looks so I was just going to get worse.  “Not nice, actually,” Natalie from Love Actually would say, but in those days I thought she walked in water because of where she was from, as though California birth is a stamp of worldliness in itself, so I followed her around between semesters and after graduation hoping to meet her expectations.  I started losing myself when I lost college and lost my mother in the same damn 18 months; I loved college because I was working full time teaching and going to school for literature.  

People have suggested that I go back for my Masters, and I’ve thought about it.  It is time to write, though, and I would have to follow more prescriptions in going back to do that.  I feel depleted on the social platforms and remember reading and writing as my community at university; it’s been brought to my attention that I’m being anti-social in this aspect, but…social sites have turned anti-social.  One half hates the other half because both halves want the whole, and listening occurs less and less.  I have to admit that I would be shocked if more than one friend in my circle read this open letter to the world, but I’m the listener in the crowd of them; it’s not so much that I am more and more anti-social, but it’s getting too difficult to have a conversation or connection.  I don’t consider it giving up as much as finding out if there are people out there who think I’m worthy of a conversation instead of just worshipping folks for putting up with me.

It is possible…I have to believe that.  I cannot settle for less…less I don’t want to live for.

Dear reader, may you have a blessed and wonderous 2017; you are deserving of it. 🙏🏻✨🎉