The first snow of the season (or the first snow I was awake to see falling) reminded me of something that I’ve been meaning to do. I am trying to read more patiently – not necessarily more attentively or carefully, but more patiently, or perhaps I should say persistently. It has been hard to concentrate, and even when this has meant discovering the unexpected meanings of tiny details, it has also meant a detachment, a standing apart from my reading self in the attempt to keep that reading self on some sort ‘track’.
Involved in this monitoring and attempt at patience (or persistence) has also been an attempt to shift away from reading ebooks and back into the folds of paper books, turning to the comfort of the tangible from the comfort of the immediately available. This is partially from a desire to return to the visually half remembered (it was on the verso of a page about a third of the way through, about an eighth of the way down), rather than relying on the conveniently searchable (magnifying glass » ‘letch’ » search), but also because I wish to read things that are disconcerting or disorienting, rather than have the experience of reading be so – as it is on the phone, where the text is at the mercy of the immediately changeable context of the app, which jumps, stutters, expires, observes. I would like my reading to, after all, be my own.1
A snapshot of sorts. Like the image above, it captures some of the things I’ve been trying to persist in reading.
- Collections of essays, such as Moyra Davey’s Index Cards, which is perhaps too world weary for me, and Briallen Hopper’s Hard to Love, which is charming, but occasionally feels too digital, as though it would be more comfortable as a series of blog posts (e.g.);
- Shakespeare’s plays, which I’ve been reading in an idiosyncratic order – I got a bit bogged down in the histories, mostly because of Falstaff, who kept asking to be made a project of, a request which must be denied; and
- Ronald Hutton’s history of the figure of the witch – an astringent and wide-ranging book that neatly models many of the good features of academic writing in terms of orderly presentation of ideas, but is not, I would say, compulsively readable.
I’ve also been trying to read around the work of Laura (Riding) Jackson, but my attempts have been tentative, because following her thinking (or meaning) requires attention, which I do not always have and which I am not convinced will be worth it (after all) to use. With reading (of this and other things), I am coming to the conclusion that, even if the work itself is not worth the careful consideration, knowing for something like a certainty that this is the case (i.e., that it is or is not worth the effort of considering) would be.
- Edited to add: this thinking was in part (a small part, but still a part) shaped by Andrew Piper’s Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2012), which I remembered at lunchtime, when I picked up my phone to read the ebook, which in turn was part of my effort to clear out my digital library to concentrate on paper books. [↩]