Let me apologize in advance. This is becoming a (sadly) familiar and repetitive refrain . . . I have fallen behind once again (of course my phrasing assumes that I ever actually caught up, which I don't think I really did) in emails, blog reading--generally anything going on online. Add to that a busy weekend of Confirmations, Mother's Day and the usual weekend busy-ness and I feel completely disjointed and out of touch with my online friends. Someday I might not only get caught up for real but feel caught up too, but I am not sure when that will happen. So I continue to chip away at things. I tried to squeeze in whatever reading I could cobble together over the weekend between family obligations, so thought I'd share a little bookishness.
First, though it's not a very good picture, I was so thrilled to see a tree in bloom on my morning walk yesterday that I had to take a picture of it. Can you see the sunshine and blue sky behind the branches? It's been such a miserable spring--pretty much a nonevent here--that I have to stop and appreciate these signs of new life and warmth when I come across them! And hey, it's almost June, can you believe that?
I was sifting through library books over the weekend deciding which had to go back in order to swap out new ones for the old. This is always a slightly agonizing process as, in theory, I want to read everything (or at least try them) I check out from the library. But every week there seems to be a new pile waiting for me, and rather than let masses of books accumulate, I try and return as many books as I have waiting for me to pick up.
Left in my 'can't quite part with this one yet' pile was Joe Queenan's One for the Books. How can you miss with a book about books? Especially when the writer is so enthusiastic about reading. It is a book of essays so one that is easy to dip into. Even if I don't read all the essays I can get a little taste, skip what doesn't appeal and enjoy the ones I can't pass up.
Joe Queenan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, though his work has appeared in a number of publications. His writing is amusing and irreverent, and while I don't agree with everything he says (when it comes to books and reading I think every serious reader has their own idiosyncracies...most definitely Queenan does), I mostly was mentally agreeing with much of what he writes in "Great Expectations", the first essay in the collection. A few of the good bits I've picked out:
Queenan makes a point of reading at least two hours every day. My own reading is always cobbled together as I mentioned above. I read on the bus, on breaks at work, while walking on the treadmill at the gym, and any other time I have a few free moments. I won't complain too much because I probably have more reading time than others, but it's not often I get a chunk of uninterrupted, quiet reading time. I grab it when I can and have been trying to make a point of carving out of my day (at least on weekends) at least an hour or two without any other distractions (for this I try and read away from home and the computer--another reason I have fallen behind so).
"I have never squandered an opportunity to read. There are only twenty-four hours in the day, seven of which are spent sleeping, and in my view at least four of the remaining seventeen must be devoted to reading."
Wishful thinking. He writes that if he could read eight to ten hours a day if he could. I think I would, too, but I wonder would I get fidgety reading so much every day? If only I could test the possibility and see.
I've heard this argument before, and heard dissenting voices, too. Queenan grew up poor in Philadelphia to "substandard parents", so for him reading was an escape from his unhappy youth. He started reading as if there was no tomorrow and is "convinced that this desire to escape from reality--on a daily, even an hourly, basis--is the main reason people read books."
"No matter what they profess to believe, no matter what they may tell themselves, most book lovers do no read primarily to obtain information or to while away the time or to better themselves even, in the words of C.S. Lewis, to know that they are not alone. They read to escape to a more exciting, more rewarding world. A world where they do not hate their jobs, their spouses, their governments, their lives."
Maybe. I might argue with him on a few of those points (I read to learn and expand my horizons and in some cases it's nice knowing I'm not alone in what I have to deal with in life sometimes) but I have to agree with the escapism part of the equation. Life has been particularly stressful this year and books have provided a really nice respite from life's problems. It's nice to be able to think about another place or time or situation that is a world away from my own.
Queenan has decidedly firm opinions about eReaders and digital books (he doesn't use them), about book buying (he prefers reading/rereading from his own book piles rather than acquiring new ones), book collecting (he amasses them rather than collects them) and various other sundry topics of concern to a true bibliophile. The next essay is "Face Without a Name, Bag Without a Number" and the opening line reads: "I have not always had the best experiences in libraries." Hmm. I'm certainly intrigued enough to continue on . . .
A few other bookish items.
I finished Renata Adler's Pitch Dark. I will be writing about it soon (before it begins fading from mind) in order to try and make a little sense of what I read. I now have three unread NYRB selections to choose from, but I think I'm going to begin skipping around and not read in order (in the order that they've arrived anyway).
Since May is moving right along I guess it's time to pull out my copy of Anna Funder's All That I Am for later this month. I don't think I mentioned it before, but the Slaves will be reading Giuseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard for June. I was all gung ho when I voted but hope now I am not getting into something more than I bargained for. Have you read it? It does sound good, but why do I imagine di Lampedusa is a formidable author? I shall soon find out. There is plenty of time if you'd like to read along with either group!
Did I tell you that I made a list of books on my nightstand? They are the books that I am in the progress of reading, plus a few that had been set aside temporarily. It covers almost an entire page, though the notebook is a small one. The idea is to try and whittle the piles down, which is more wishful thinking. I will continue to chip away at those, too. Although I've not shared any recent purchases, I have made quite a few and with each new parcel that arrives I have a strong desire to crack the book open and begin reading . . . Finally, too, over the weekend I did a little housecleaning and organizing (but only a little . . . ) as piles were beginning to look like clutter and were making me feel a little claustrophobic. It's always nice to have those TBR piles all neat and tidy, isn't it?