Back in February, I pledged to borrow a book every month from my local library in the spirit of ‘if we don’t use it, we might lose it’ (even though my local library isn’t under threat of closing). For two months, I borrowed books that weren’t quite Me...and since the last one, I’ve not borrowed any.
Oh Pledge, what’s happened to
Part of the problem is, I think,
that I realised I needed to devote more time to choosing a book from the
library, rather than plucking them from the shelf or just-returned cart – and I’ve
not made the time to do this. Naughty me, then.
I think, though, that the main
problem is that I’ve been struggling with my reading of late. I’ve been drained
and tired and not concentrated well, ’tis true, but I’d also started not-quick
books that have been dragging their heels...and the lack of progress and (if I’m
being gut-wrenchingly honest) enjoyment has made me a bit of a reluctant
reader, which isn’t usually my problem!
A couple of days ago, I finished
one of these slow-burn books, The Sisters
Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Like Girl
Reading, the recommendation came from Channel 4’s Reading Group booklist –
and while it sounded completely different to what I normally choose, I was
imbued with the reviewers’ pleasure and amusement, and I wanted a bit of that
Now, I’ve had a fraction of it – the story is interesting, the
characters quirky and thought-provoking and the pace quick, actually...but I’ve
been reading it in ten-minute tea-break chunks, with maybe twenty minutes
during my lunch break, rather than giving it hours at a time. I have been able
to put it down (though it hasn’t left my thoughts and I have remembered to go
back to it) and let days, perhaps even a week, pass before I pick it up again.
It is worth reading, despite my bit-at-a-time approach: a
Western with a 21st Century-relevant moral, it will make you wince
and smile in equal measure. Is it one to keep on the bookshelf? I’m not sure!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, probably means I didn’t love it enough...
The other started-but-not-yet-finished
book is the biography of my favourite poet, The
Life of Emily Dickinson by Richard B Sewall. Now, to be fair, this is a
tome of a book; a proper scholar’s tome. In that sense, it can’t be quick to
read because there’s so much information, detail and analysis. I think it’s a
really well written to-be-studied biography, and it’s clear that Sewall has
done his research and states when he’s surmising what might have happened so as
there’s no confusion...but it is long and, as it allots a chapter to each of
the people in Emily Dickinson’s close relationships, it can feel, for the
casual reader, a little laborious.
I think, too, that because I’d
been so looking forward to receiving it for my Easter present (yet, alas, I
still consumed a couple of Easter Eggs...damn the cheap sweet shop opposite
work!), the bulk of it overwhelmed me – and by this I mean its actual size and
weight, rather than page-length. I don’t buy hardbacks, you see, because I find
them cumbersome to hold: I can’t curl up with a cup of tea in one hand, book
nestled in the other. A hardback or equally bulky book requires both hands
holding it, with a cushion standing by to prop it on when they ache; the
bookmark has to be inserted when a sip of tea is taken, otherwise it clunks
closed and the page is lost; and so, for me, the magic is interrupted,
disrupted. Reading The Life of Emily
Dickinson lying in bed is no easy task, and so that cuts down on the time I
have to read it.
But I shouldn’t be moaning,
really: I am enjoying it, though a little impatient to move on from the people
she knew (and thus who can tell us about her – she was a recluse who wilfully
left little written records or papers when she died, and so getting a gauge of
what really made her tick is very tricky) to get to the good stuff: how she wrote
what she wrote; her writer’s process. Alas, I am realising that there might be
very little that Sewall can say on this subject, as Emily Dickinson kept her
poetry personal (other than sending it to friends) rather than public (i.e.
discussing how and why she did it, and expressing the desire to publish
it)...but there are the final two chapters which seem to concentrate on her
reading and writing, so I just need to get there!
So, with my Pledge nonexistent for
the last few months and my arms aching from the weight of this biography, what
should I do to choose my next read?
Just hold on and wait, I
think...till the need to read grips me so tight that even the cereal box will
do...! Then, you see, I shan’t be able to put it (or the cereal box!) down and
so shall be properly immersed in reading, just as I love to be.