Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Oh Pledge, What's Happened to You?!

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 you?!

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 myself.

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. Oops.

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.

1 comment:

  1. That blooming cheap sweet shop does it every time doesn't it?! I do try to walk by, I do! Am sure you'll find your reading......ummm...eyes soon. Hugs Zo xx


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