A Note about HTR&W
Reminder: On July 5, I’m drawing a name from those that are joining the HTR&W challenge. (Let me know by commenting on that post; I’ll wait until it’s July 5 in the USA to draw the name.) I’ll send the winner a copy of HTR&W; if you already own HTR&W, I’ll substitute another book or collection (poetry/short stories) on the HTR&W list valued under $20. I’ve added all the works from HTR&W to my Amazon store so you can find them in one place.
If you want to join with a caveat (such as, “I’ll read all the works except Proust’s 7-volume novel” or “I won’t reread any that I’ve already read”), I’ll still enter you in the drawing.
Why Do I Read?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I read. Part of my questioning stems from reading Harold Bloom’s essays on reading, and part stems from my book blogging. When I first found the book blogging cyber-world a few months ago, I was so excited to have found dozens (no, hundreds) of other readers out there sharing their thoughts about books. I’ve enjoyed being a part of the book blogging community.
By reading blogs, I find more books I want to read. I’ve even dabbled in graphic novels (well, the two or three my local library has!). As a blogger, I find myself neglecting other priorities (cleaning my house) to get a book read (“I need to blog about it!”).
There are some good things about my new habits, but there are also some not-so-good things. For example, the kitchen floor really needs to be mopped. Instead, I’m writing this blog post.
Two things this week alerted me to the fact that something needs to change.
I sat in the doctor’s office Wednesday and opened my next book: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I’d finished a book that morning, and I was at the doctor’s office without my son. I could read!
I’ve wanted to read Capote for a long time. Then I read Katharine Graham autobiography and she was good friends with him. Then I read two or three fellow book bloggers’ reviews of In Cold Blood. I bumped In Cold Blood up my list; my library had it.
As I read, I was impressed with the writing. It was well-written and would be engaging. Ten pages later, it hit me: I don’t want to read about murder this week.
My mind tried to debate that (“You need to read it now because it’ll be due at the library!” and “You need to blog about it!”) but eventually I decided I’m not going to read it. I’m sure it’s good. But I’m not going to read it just to read it.
This week, I’ve been reviewing the HTR&W reading list. I have the goal to read all of it, and there are some really long books on the list! I found myself wishing I could be done with Proust so I could get to Faulkner and Toni Morrison. Then I realized that that is not the point of my goal to read the HTR&W works. My goal is to read the works slowly and determinedly. I am not meant to rush through this, turning pages just so I can cross it off a list. I’m meant to learn what it means to read well.
As soon as I realized that, I got very excited about each work. Next up: Chekhov’s stories. Which translation is best? Is there a “best?” I made a special trip to a library 30 minutes away to get the translation highly recommended on Amazon.com instead of reading the Project Gutenberg version. This is my chance to really embrace Chekhov’s stories. I’m going to do it right.
I’m likewise excited about many of the works on the list, even Proust. I’m also going to start now on the first novel, Don Quixote, even in the midst of the short stories. When I started wondering about translations and researching translators for Don Quixote, I decided not to: I can read Don Quixote in Spanish. Yes, I have lost my mind.
Just to clarify: while I did take a years of Spanish in college and I lived in Boliva for three months one summer break from college, I’m not actually fluent. I’m going to struggle through it with a dictionary, but I want to do it. If I’m going to read such a long book, why not really read it? As it was written. That will be a “difficult pleasure.” (We’ll see if I survive.)
I know I will read more graphic novels when I’m near a library that has them: they are interesting. I know I’ll read non-award-winning fiction, especially during weeks like last week when my son and I are both sick and I didn’t feel like doing much. I’ll keep reading Pulitzer-prize winners and Nobel prize-winning authors (a few a year), and I won’t give up my nonfiction. But I need to slow down again. I need to stop reading a book just so I can blog about it.
This post is my official resolution that I’m going to step away from the computer, stop compulsively checking Google Reader, and start reading again.