I realized today that I’ve left a book that I’m in the middle of reading in practically every room in the house. This says something about my reading habits. Of course it says that I love to read, but you probably knew that already. But it also illustrates to me how my attention is often flighty. Yes, I have been known to sit and read an entire book at once in the can’t-put-it-down mode. But a lot of the time I like to read a little bit of a book and then close it so I can digest what I’ve just read. Why do I do this? Sometimes I get overwhelmed by intensities of plot and emotion and have to step away for a breather. Or else I get irritated with stupidities of character or writing and have to walk off and cool my anger. Or maybe I’m just easily bored. Or maybe there’s just so much that I’m interested in that I want to read it all at once. And of course there are other interesting things that call for my attention, like my vast collection of yarn.
Anyway, this realization about my masses of half-finished books also got me thinking about what kinds of books I like to read. It would be interesting to make some chart, a bar graph, about what genres I read most. There is a silly detective novel in the bathroom. There’s a historical fiction novel on the dining table, plus some poetry books that I just got in the mail. There’s a young adult fantasy novel in the living room, and also the Wilkie Collins novel I’m reading out loud with S. In my office I have The Heart is a Lonely Hunterby Carson McCullers.
The mystery novel and the young adult fantasy both represent genres that I read repeatedly. They’re my guilty pleasures, I guess you would say. They’re what fills the space in my attention that I suspect is roughly the equivalent of watching TV. S and I don’t have a TV, although we do watch dvds on our computers. We have a netflix subscription. But I don’t have any loyalties to current TV shows where I know and love the characters and tune in weekly to hear them speak and watch them struggle and know roughly what to expect. Instead, I’ve come to know the stock characters of these genres of light reading. I return to mystery novels for the enjoyment of the puzzle, and to fantasy for the unlikely heroes/heroines, the magic, and the quests. I imagine I’d be a dismal failure if thrown into any of the situations found in these books, but I love to read about them.
And will I try to write these same books someday? I have certainly thought about it. Maybe, on some level, all this reading is just practice for my dreams. I already write poetry, and feel deep good about that. But somewhere in me is the desire to write the same exact books that I adored when I was a kid, to recreate that kind of awe that I got from the fantasy, or that warm, attentive fun I found in Agatha Christie. Because I can find a certain meditative awe in my poetry, but I still seek the feeling I had when I read CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper. It’s a dream that I’ll probably never realize, but I don’t expect that I’ll ever stop doing the research.