Friday 11 December 2009

Pre- and post-desperation reading

I haven't been here in a while; it's good to see you. I deleted my blog for a little while to give myself real space to think; about what I want/need/expect to get out of book blogging now that it's no longer a refuge from anything; what I owe to the people who read this blog, whether or no they remain "silent"; just how much, and what kind of, consideration I owe to readers; whether or not I should take Celine's advice and turn Bookphilia into Pumpkin Pie Recipe-philia, with Stuff About Books Sometimes, Maybe.

I haven't actually come up with any definitive answers. I have had some revelatory (or almost so) moments, that may lead to something eventually.

1) I am reading David Copperfield, and have been doing so for a couple of weeks now. I'm taking it slowly, often on purpose. I freaked out a little a few days ago when I realized this is the first book in approximately 10 years that I haven't read desperately. And I mean real, sickening desperation.

In grad school (yes, I'll stop blaming everything on that soon, very soon, I promise!), I read desperately both microcosmically and macrocosmically, and in both my work and leisure reading experiences. For school, I read desperately quickly, in order to get things done; for example, I recall reading Wuthering Heights in one very long and excruciating day because I had so many other things to do; during that day, I neither left my house, nor washed, nor ate anything that didn't come out of a box. While studying for my comprehensive exams, I read two plays every day, and took extensive notes on them.

When I read for leisure, which I did in a manic attempt to not feel too defined by my studies, I read with all the desperation of the drowning; reading for pleasure only was, for me, evidence that I wasn't lost yet. But I read with so much fear in my heart - the fear of individual books being interrupted and the general fear of running out of time before I got to everything I wanted to get to that in the end, these experiences weren't really so different. I just didn't realize this until recently, when I noticed I was magically back to reading in pre-desperation mode.

Pre-desperation mode involved lingering over books to make them last as long as possible, purposefully not reading at all some days so my immersion in the artistic world of Dickens or Boccaccio or whomever could be prolonged in my deeply satisfied brain. Apparently, just 2 weeks away and an impossibly lengthy Dickens novel have taken me back there.

The question is, can I blog without that desperation? I honestly don't know. The last time I was accustomed to reading this way, my email was in Pine, more than half my professors (and I) didn't know how to send attachments over the email, and Blogger didn't even exist! Maybe that's where the pumpkin pie recipes come in, hey? I hope you like pumpkin pie.

2) Substance has gotten lost in style here somehow. I like to be funny. Sometimes, I think I succeed. I must succeed sometimes; otherwise, Tina Fey wouldn't have created an entire tv show based on the crazy hi jinx of my awkward social life and professional gaffs. But I was positively ashamed of myself today when I saw my flip and shallow interview about Shakespeare bumping up against an interview with David Mitchell on Between the Lines.

Also, I can be dismissive. Admittedly, this is my blog and I should without shame state my opinions but this is where I get confused - at what point does the blog stop being about the individual and become about the community? And how does one maintain the individual (which in my case is allergic to sugar-coating anything) without alienating the community? I honestly don't know, and this is why I'm not certain this return of mine will last.

3) I'm not sure I can write without desperation, but just as importantly, I'm not sure I want to. That's not a rhetorical way of saying I don't want to; I really don't know if I want to! To try to answer this, I'm going to list what I've consistently enjoyed about working on this here bloggy:
  • Curious/Creepy: Besides just loving to find out what people are reading, I like the venue for creative but relatively harmless bitchiness this allows for. But I rarely take transit so this is a difficult one to do often.
  • The Sarazens head: It's good to point out that all the crazy people that come in here aren't just fictions of my disordered brain. Ditto for the super-nice and interesting people.
  • I enjoy writing about books I really love and books I really hate. Both inspire passion, and it's satisfying to engage with that passion. Unfortunately, my passionate responses to books I hate have elicited death threats and illiterate abuse, e.g., "Your a stupid cunt faced bitch go fuck yourselv" [sic], and that's frankly rather tiring now that I've grown Kevlar skin and it doesn't hurt me anymore. Also, it's hard to read only books that inspire an excessive use of superlatives; there's just so much middling stuff out there.
And now for what I don't like (anymore):
  • I used to love The Reading Lamp but that's on the chopping block if Bookphilia stays alive for it's SO FREAKIN' HARD to get people to participate. I find this surprising. But I guess I imagine everyone will be as much of an egomaniac as I am and want to spout their blah blahs all over the place as much as I do.
  • Book challenges. Granted, I'm only currently involved in two - one of my own devising (talk about commitment-phobia!) and the other which requires only one book in six months, which I've fulfilled - but I somehow can't deal with the pressure. But I'm not blaming things on grad school anymore so this is an entirely mysterious ailment that cannot be diagnosed!
  • I don't know if I can actually do things any differently, no matter how much I analyze myself and tire you by treating you like my father confessor/shrink/bartender/sympathetic looking but quietly uncomfortable guy at the bus stop. Er, yeah, sorry.
I guess all I know at this point is that reading has suddenly become entirely magical again. And laid back. And much more deeply satisfying. And slooooow.

And I'm out of steam. More later, maybe.


Heidenkind said...

You're back! I was afraid you'd canceled the blog for good. Hm, I'm not sure I've ever read with desperation, even when I was in grad school. But then I wasn't in English lit (I decided I enjoy reading too much to make it "work").

I do like pumpkin pie, though.

OT question: have you read Harry Potter? I'm just rereading it so that's all I can think about right now....

celine said...

First off squeeeeeze* I'm so glad you're back.

Secondly, I am a bear of exceedingly small brain and only tiny education so a lot of what you discuss is more then a little over my head, but you MAKE ME THINK and you encourage me to explore books that I may never have known existed. And so because of that, squeeeeeeeze* I'm glad you're back*.

( *in whatever capacity. Pumpkin pies are, after all, so delicious)

J.G. said...

Some things in life are just supposed to be fun. High achievers tend to turn them into obligations, work, stress-sources, etc. Resist that when you can.

Other than that, no advice. I enjoy reading but you don't owe me anything!

As for the nasty comments you sometimes get, well, at least you know the authors are reading your blog! :-)

Wayne Lowther said...

Well, it's your blog, you can do what you want, BUT as a former "Reading Lamp" alumnus, I think the reading lamp is cool. Maybe they should be collected on a seperate page or a list of links on the side to reading lamp posts that might create a sense of community.

All commentors should end their post with what they are reading

Wayne is now reading:
Gordon Sheppard: HA!
William T Vollmann: The Atlas
Sam Stephenson: The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965

Looking for a copy of William Gaddis: The Recognitions

Anonymous said...

I am SO relieved to see you're back. I was getting really worried when Blogger kept saying, "Blog not found". I'm so glad you've returned because I would really miss you if you made it a permanent absence.

Guinness said...

Y'know, when I was in the comics industry, and made the ludicrous promise that I would write a review of anything that anyone sent me, I quickly learned to hate what I had once loved. So I feel your pain. I got that love back, but I think had to leave the industry to get it. I got death threats, too, by the way. I'm pretty sure there are still people laying in wait for me in Manhattan.

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

I don't want to presume too much, but this sounds like it's related to what I have been writing about this week. You are flinging yourself at the target once your arrows are spent. You're writing.

Specific topics: the funny, not a problem, really, not. And your Shakespeare interview was no more flip or shallow than David Mitchell's. Yours contained more inights, actually. Seeing them head to head, my thought was "How cool."

Please save room next year for one Scottish book, please!

Bookphilia said...

My goodness, posse - can I call you by interwebbish book posse? - you astound me with your loveliness. I send a bucket of whining out and you send the love back. You're too good.

heidenkind: I like pumpkin pie too, and by pumpkin pie I may mean "pumpkin pie", any baked good that is predominantly orange, or anything I make at all. We'll see, but regardless: Code Name: PUMPKIN PIE.

Celine: SQUEEZE back, lady! Thanks again for your sweet emails before.

J.G.: I will try to resist, but I've heard somewhere that resistance is futile. I just both dated myself and showed that I'm a Trek nerd. Sigh.

Wayne: I like your idea; I will look into collecting all the Reading Lamps into a left-hand column. But not right now, I'm making pumpkin pie.

dolcebelleza: You're such a sweetheart. Email me your mailing address so I can send you that Japanese crime novel I promised for the JLC3.

Guinness: I think B. and I are heading to NYC in April...I'll take care of those guys for you.

Amateur Reader: What you said about me and David Mitchell makes me want to beat myself with a stick and cry "I'm not worthy!"

Seriously, thanks. I'm catching up on your posts right now. And I will certainly read a Scottish novel of your recommending in 2010.

Bookphilia said...

heidenkind: I forgot to address your OT question earlier. I have not read Harry Potter. I tried to read the first one but found the writing to be too precious for my tastes; but I'd been warned that if I read Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy first, HP would be ruined for me...and that turns out to have been true.

Yuri... said...

So glad to have you back DreamQueen :)I spent a relaxing morning respite catching up on your post-revival posts and checking out the "Between eh Lines" interview that I can't believe you didn't tell me about! Bad you!

Your interview is anything but flippant, and, as you can tell a lot about a person by the company he/she keeps, is well paired with the beyond-brilliant David Mitchell.

Keep writing whatever makes you happy, and I will keep reading (and will expect homemade pumpkin pie next time me meet!).

Bookphilia said...

Yuri: How about chocolate pumpkin pie when we next meet? Chocolate pumpkin pie is what I do best.