To Read, Perchance to Redeem Myself

Sunday morning on the couch in my pajama bottoms, a Go Korea soccer tee-shirt that C bought me when he went there, and a purple yoga hoodie. The 30-year old furnace growls comfortingly yet I leech heat from the dog and cup after cup of select herbal teas. I listen to the steady rain, random drips of water into the kitchen sink, and the clocks here and in my office, ticking. If I’m not careful, I will fall asleep.

It is a perfect day for staying home and reading. Nothing but—though it can be to ourselves or each other—especially not driving back to Wal-Mart to return the Toy Story DVD we bought yesterday for my nephew for Christmas but which, it turns out, my sister had forgotten to tell me she’d already bought. The alternative title she gave me, when I finally gritted my teeth and asked for one, was Mickey’s Christmas Carol. I gritted my teeth harder, because that was precisely what I’d picked up and walked about with for several minutes before buying instead what was on my nephew’s list. The only copy of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, in that zoo of a store. I chastise myself: Trust your instincts. Next time, do what your self tells you.

This brings me to reading, which my self tells me I want to and should do every day, instead of being on the computer. The first thing I did this morning on opening my eyes was finally not get out of bed for work but pick up one of the books I’m reading, Martha Baillie’s The Incident Report, which I haven’t touched, not on purpose, since the day I read 40 pages at lunch time at the store and then bought it. That was weeks ago.

I want to keep reading but I’d also like to review Yellowknife, by Steve Zipp, because I finished it at least a week ago. I finished a book! Yes. It’s been worrying me that I have turned into that person who reads and tweets and facebooks and blogs about books but never reads them. It’s been bothering me that a person who loves to read more than anything in the world chooses rather to stare at a monitor than make time for a book, except while brushing her teeth or right before she falls asleep after midnight. It doesn’t make sense and it reminds me of my childhood, teenage, and even university days, when I dropped everything for a book, for escape, for the utter appreciation of skillfully crafted stories and essays. Those memories make me want to weep over the loss of the old me. Suddenly, it’s as though my reading life, and all the books I read in all the places I read—under the Lone Tree on our ten acres, wedged between shelves and counter in the library where my mom worked, on the bed, on the floor, in the van, in the bath, waiting in lines, on the bus, on the train, on the couch, by the woodstove, etc.—are determined to flash before me. If this could happen as I’m dying, instead of the typical life that flashes before your eyes, I’d be okay with that. But with my luck and the way I’ve been behaving, it will be all the books I meant to read but didn’t that show themselves.

I know that Steve Zipp, the author who sent me his book, the author who has been supremely patient waiting for me to read it and then review it, will be okay if I don’t review his book today. He told me there was no rush. I think he means this, because if I were an author, I wouldn’t want to rush a writer, or a reviewer. More than anything, I’d want the person to settle down to review when she was relaxed and in a reviewing mood. That way everyone benefits.

So I think I’ll read. I think for the first time in months, perhaps even years, I’ll do only that, all day. I am home, for once, and thus able to hear the rain on the roof for hours, watch a strange fog patch drift by like smoke, able to sit by the lit Christmas tree, able to think I’ll be free from unexpected visits since the heavy rain is dangerously icy and this is a storm, which the WeatherEye in my toolbar tells me is “right on track.”

bedside table

There are many reasons one reads. And when I put those reasons together with time I didn’t even have to carve out of a tightly squeezing, wrenching, grasping day but which the universe seems finally to have conspired to give me, and when the feeling that I could read right through The Incident Report and through Breakfast at the Exit Cafe and then through the entire ridiculous, though of course incomplete, “immediate pile” threatening to kill me as I sleep, I think I should listen to what my self is telling me: read. Read to redeem yourself. Read while you still can.

17 comments for “To Read, Perchance to Redeem Myself

  1. Em
    12 December, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Oh, I envy you! I should have made the same decision instead of staying in bed in order to avoid studying (the workings of my brain are strange sometimes). One more week of thesis work and then I can do just that: read (study and leisure) books. This is my treat for Christmas and it has been approved by my supervisor :)

    • 12 December, 2010 at 3:32 pm

      Lovely! The week will pass by quickly, never fear.

      I finished The Incident Report, and we did end up braving the rain to return that DVD and get my nephew a toy as well. Now for more tea and the next book…perhaps even a nap!

  2. 12 December, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    oh how i feel your pain! although i don’t stack my books up any longer because the stacks of TBR would topple the house! Ugh! And what’s so sad is that all of the books that are in these stacks of TBR (and reviewed) are books I WANT to read! I’ve gotten so picky about what I will accept anymore knowing that I have so many waiting and that’s even after taking 3 months off of not accepting any books! And what am I doing on this snowy, lazy Sunday day? Homework! Checking email! Commenting on blogs to avoid homework….then I’ll read at midnight just before going to sleep.

    Fantastic post!

    • 12 December, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      Stacy,

      You’ve said it exactly right. You understand.

      I tried to read more and I think I discovered why I don’t do it, or allow myself to do it, or whatever: I struggled all day to stop feeling lazy and as though I should be busy. I’ve become so used to doing something, whether email or blog posts or reading posts and commenting, or twitter or facebook or freelance proofreading, or WHATEVER, that when I finally can sit and read it feels as though I shouldn’t be. As though I’m wasting the day. WHAT HAPPENED TO ME? Be still my heart—that’s the most horrible thing I’ve ever thought, that reading = wasting time!

  3. 12 December, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    I like the bedside table book stack. I organize my TBR list by the shelves on my bookcases. I read four books off one shelf then move on to the next. It’s an odd system but I’ve been doing it for years now.

    I know what you mean about feelings towards reading. I have gone through numerous times when I have not read for 6 or 7 months but I always come back around to it. Shortly after I finished university I actually ended up selling all of my books (about 3000 of them) simply because I had lost my passion for reading. Then 4 years later I started reading again and began to rebuild my book collection (the trigger for all of this was that we moved and couldn’t get the cable hooked up for about 2 weeks and I needed some form of entertainment).

    Reading for me is simply a distraction from life and as a form of amusement. I teach business at a career college so my job doesn’t allow for a whole lot of creativity; reading allows me to indulge in the arts and escape from the everyday drudgery. Everyone has a reason for why they read, no matter what the reason the important thing is that you do it for the joy of it, not out of obligation, that is when the spark is lost.

    • 12 December, 2010 at 10:28 pm

      Hey Aaron,

      I’ve thought of organizing my tbr pile but any sort of organization is futile because it’s like the best-laid plans – they always go to the dogs. I read whatever I feel like at that moment I’m going to read.

      It’s not I haven’t felt like reading so much as being either unable to make the time or unable to get myself off the internet. I think there’s a bit of an addiction there!!

      But you’ve hit the nail on the head about reading for the joy of it, not out of obligation. I feel an obligation to the kind publicists who’ve sent me free books, and sometimes I even feel obligated to the people who read this blog and are looking, perhaps, for reviews. But perhaps this is why I haven’t made time for it, then, precisely because I’m feeling obligated, and so I’m rebelling against that. It’s weird because I truly want to read these books; I don’t have a single one in the house I don’t want.

      PS. WOW. I can’t believe you sold all your books at one time. And that you had 3000 to sell! i haven’t a clue how many I have. About 6 tall bookshelves full.

  4. 14 December, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Your bedside picture is HILARIOUS! It’s such an exaggerated pile, it’s like a cartoon!
    I actually had the same thing in mind on Sunday–I woke up and read and I would have continued to read all day but you know what stopped me? The fact that I was dangerously close to finishing my book and didn’t want to!

    • 14 December, 2010 at 11:33 am

      That is really what it looks like, all the time. I didn’t just do it for the pic, either!

      What book was it? Dickner’s?

      I just sold French Taste by raving about the food you cooked from it, and the book itself!

  5. 14 December, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Yes, Apocalypse for Beginners. It’s really great. Smart guy that Dickner.

    Excellent about French Taste! I recently make a savory tart from that book. It’s sort of like a quiche but it’s made in a spring-form pan so the pastry comes up real high and there’s quite a lot of filling. IT’S NOT DIET FRIENDLY. My pastry came out the best I’ve ever made it, but it’s quite a job making this thing. First you make the pastry, then you pre-bake it covering it completely in foil and filling up the whole spring-form with beans or whatever to weight it down to prevent shrinking. Then take it all out, and bake some more and then let cool. FILLING: sauté some shallots and chopped swiss chard stems until soft. Put in a bowl. Fry up some chopped bacon, put in bowl. Fry up the chopped swiss chard leaves. Put in bowl. Grate a bunch of Gruyère, mix in with the filling. In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups of crème fraiche OR 1 c. heavy cream + 1 c. sour cream and 3 eggs. Scoop out the filling into the crust. Pour in the cream mixture. Bake 45 min. until set. It was SO good, but a little like eating a cheese cake it was so fattening!

    • 14 December, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      This is the first post of yours I’ve read and you so voiced my own fears and my own thoughts that I am declaring myself your new avid follower. I love love love this post, and I struggle with the same thing. I try to keep my computer time to work and my reading time at home, but no matter what, the computer eeks its way into the evenings and weekends…

      Anyway, hope you enjoyed your day of reading!

      • 14 December, 2010 at 1:55 pm

        Hi Kerry!

        I’m at work now but I will check out your blog when I get home.

        Thanks for following, and I am so relieved, honestly, that there is someone just like me out there: a booklover but with a serious distraction issue that keeps her from reading!!

        Talk to you again soon,
        S

    • 14 December, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      T: God, that sounds divine, except for the meat, of course…

      I’m so glad you have a working oven now!! Are you going to make something for us for Christmas? :)

  6. 15 December, 2010 at 11:52 am

    It really is the weather to read, all cosy with the christmas tree glistening. It’s been fun to visit your blog today. Catherine (www.bumpkin.etsy.com)

    • 15 December, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks, Catherine! And I just quickly went on your cute site. I will take a better look when I’m not at work. Your illustrations, from what I see immediately, are magical!

  7. 15 December, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    When I was trying to blog about books, I really lost a lot of the enjoyment of reading because I felt pressure to take notes and formulate criticism whilst reading. For me, it took the escapism part of reading away, and I actually ended up reading a lot less! Now that I’ve stopped blogging about reading, I’ve thrown myself into reading with gusto. I’m definitely not suggesting you stop blogging by the way!!!! It seems that for you reviewing and blogging about books is a huge part of the enjoyment.
    I’m so glad you have had some quality time to read! There’s nothing better than a whole day of reading, especially during gloomy weather. I think that’s what gloomy weather was designed for.

    • 15 December, 2010 at 10:10 pm

      I can see why or how that would happen. I’m not really feeling that; it’s more about making the time to read and then also to blog thoughtful reviews. I enjoy doing it, and that’s what stresses me: that I like it but don’t seem to be following through on that passion! What gives? Someone told me it’s because right now I have a bad case of the “shoulds and shouldn’ts” and that’s causing me to rebel and such. Makes sense.

      I have been making more time, though, although reviews are starting to have to be done only one weekends because I’ve had stuff going happening almost every evening, and need at least an hour or two for a proper review. Right now I have three to do!

      And yes, gloomy weather definitely equals reading! :) I’m really happy you’re enjoying the reading experience now that you’re focused on your yoga.

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