05 June 2009

On our side? Oh, most definitely not.

This has been an odd summer so far. I'm not a whiner, so I will avoid the bad stuff and comment upon the general strangeness of nightly frosts in June, time that speeds by like a bullet train, and an unusually large deluge of good poems cycling into my head every day.

I'm a to-do list girl. I have a hard time when the semester's over and I have to reassign particular tasks to particular times. My to-do lists have suffered. I try to write a new one every week. Sometimes I make abbreviations that I can't read. Not recommended.

I want to learn how to read for fun again. If I had the time, I would start a reading purpose journal and record every time I read something, and what kind of reading it is. When I'm not reading for work (student poems, contest submissions, mss by continuing authors) I'm reading outside for work (book reviews, books for the book club I moderate). The other night I read a bunch of Barn Owl Review subs, and it was such a thrill because I was only typing in comments and evaluating them, and because they were so damn good.

I want to go back to when I was a kid reading Anne Tyler novels at the pool. There was a kind of immersion that I had. I'd need to snap myself out of it with a big sip of Tab cola. Now, reading for a living, I feel like I'm always skimming, even when I'm not skimming.

Because, after all, there's just not enough time in the day.

Dear Readers, how do you read? For those of you who read a lot of articles and other things online, have you felt that your reading style has changed? And how? How do you switch from one kind of reading to the next? What's the secret to relishing it again? And hopefully it doesn't require saccharin.

On a separate note, I sent two submissions out into the world today and got the most magnificent high from it. I wish you all the same euphoria the next time you submit.

7 comments:

Justin Evans said...

I read in bursts. I have just started Robert Fagels' translation of The Illiad. I am determined to give myself an official summer reading list and complete it.

Kristin said...

What a relief to find out that I'm not the only one doing more skimming than reading these days (a sad relief, because I certainly don't wish that on any of us). I do lots of bouncing around reading: a bit here for my teaching, a bit here for my administrating, a bit here and there on the Internet, which leads me to other bits and soon I've hypertexted away the better part of an afternoon.

I lose myself in books when there are no other distractions or when I desperately need to distract myself from the current situation: when I was at my parents' house and couldn't use the computer, when I was stuck in an airport, when I was stuck in a waiting room--those kind of situations.

Perhaps I should manufacture more of those situations. I miss losing myself in a book, looking up amazed to find out that it has gotten dark since I started reading.

Matthew Thorburn said...

I remember Robert Pinsky saying the same thing in a panel talk a few years ago -- how hard it is for him to read anything for fun anymore.

I'm lucky to get to do a lot of reading -- up to 90 min./day x 5 days/week -- on the subway to and from work. This is one of the great things about not living in Manhattan.

It's pretty much all pleasure reading, even the occasional book of poems I'm reading for a review. Recently I read Donald Hall's memoir, The Best Day The Worst Day (and just blogged about it). Also I signed up for National Geographic a couple months ago and have been loving their mix of oddities of nature and cultural travel writing.

The other great time to read -- like Kristen mentioned -- is on airplanes. I don't fly all that often, but my favorite part of packing for a trip is deciding what books and mags to bring.

Valerie Loveland said...

When I was unemployed I would read a lot but also waste a lot of time on the internet, which would be bad for my immersion reading (too much skimming on the internet). Now that I'm working, I have less time to read, but I feel like the reading quality is better, because I do less skimming.

P. J. said...

Let me try that again:

Ah, TAB.

Leslie said...

I have all my life read obsessively. Usually between 5 and 15 books a week. Every library I've ever joined knew my name by the end of the first month. Most people wanted to know if I actually read everything I took out (mostly yes, unless it was terrible).

Reading poems forces me to slow down, which I love. Patience is rewarded in poetry almost always.

A couple of times in my life I've had a ton of stress and drama, and, in the wake of it, I find myself crawling though books. For about a year now I've been down to 1 or 2 books a week, sometimes less. I read a couple of pages and walk away, then come back.

I like that. You get to spend more time in the world of the book instead of doing a reader's drive-by.

Sometimes I force slowness upon myself. I'll sit down and say to myself, okay, three pages and then you have to do something else. And if you only get three pages, you tend not to skim. Because basically, any one of us can skim three pages before we even get comfortable.

Lyle Daggett said...

I remember years ago reading somewhere a comment by a school teacher (elementary school) who said she could always tell which kids in the classroom didn't have T.V. at home (or the T.V. wasn't on much), because they had much long attention spans than the other kids.

I find it very difficult to read poetry online. The internet can be okay for reading things like news articles or certain types of essays, but for anything needing an engaged imagination the two-dimensionality online reading doesn't work very well for me.

Books are made from paper, which is made from trees; computers are made of metal and silicon and plastic, which are made (or extracted) from rocks. Vegetable as opposed to mineral. Print books and magazines by their physical nature allow us to approach at least a little closer to the organic world.

The organic world moves more slowly than the electronic world. A webpage with a poem on it can be disappeared by the touch of a button. This tends to give anything online (to my sensibilities) a less substantial, more ephemeral quality than printed writing, which is one of the things that makes it more difficult to read poetry, for example, online.

Also, much of the writing that's published online tends to have more visual clutter around it, more "noise," in effect. This tends to work against the silence around a poem that is itself a part of the poem. The poem loses something of itself.

In general, with all reading, I prefer print on paper. When I'm reading poetry in particular, I find that I like how it slows me down. This feels necessary to me, essential, in a fundamental life-sustaining sense.