reading


No, not that closet. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that closet.)

What I’m talking about is the closet of my own mind. Or spirit. Or something. See, I’m an introvert who has always needed a certain amount of alone time in order to stay sane. Far from the madding crowd and all that. I like reading, and thinking about what I’ve read, and consuming media, and thinking about what I’ve consumed, and above all else, freedom from the horrors of small talk. I like talking to people, I just abhor chit chat. Elevators have always been an especially torturous circle of Hell for me. I like having real conversations: sometimes silly, sometimes serious, but real.

I wouldn’t say I’m a wallflower, exactly, because I also like to dance, even if I have to dance by myself—like nobody’s watching. But at any party not featuring music, and not featuring a number of my friends for real conversation, I am likely to be the one sitting next to the ficus benjamina in the corner.

I can fake extroversion when necessary—which explains much of my working life—but if forced to an excess of it I tend to collapse like a soggy noodle at the end of the day. I’m never so glad to shut the door and commune with my solitude as on those days when forced to overplay the extroversion card.

I used to think there was something wrong with me and the way I am. I was certainly told this enough times by extroverts. One time I and a close friend of mine, L., who is also an introvert, went to a “psychic” for a reading. She read us separately, L. first, and when she got to me she said, “You’re another closet person, just like your friend! You both need to get out of yourselves and become part of the world!” L. and I completely took this to heart, berated ourselves for being such mutants. But you know what? We were part of the world, not just the same world this so-called psychic inhabited. We went out and did things, saw things, had fun, but sometimes we just needed to go back to our rooms and think over all that stuff and regenerate our energy. We weren’t extroverts. So fucking what?

Of course, it took me a long time to get that perspective. Perspective is a funny old thing that can change many times over the course of a life. L. and I were talking about this just today, how in high school we spent a lot of time in our rooms listening to music or reading, doing our art, thinking about music and reading and art, peering deep into the strange heart of existence, occasionally going out and doing stuff and having a good time, then circling back to our solitude. And I, for one, was not unhappy with that except when teased about it by the extroverts. All those pom-pom girls and rah-rah boys.

In our twenties, L. and I thought we needed to change the way we were, to get out there and live life like that psychic told us to do, like the pom-rah crowd said we should. I can’t say it ever made me happy trying to force myself to be something I wasn’t, always thinking I was wrong for being who I truly am. I’m glad my perspective has changed again.

There is nothing wrong with the closet I inhabit. After all, good friends and good conversation are just a text away. My closet is messy, but other than that it’s a place where I can read and think and do art and listen to music and podcasts and try, now and again, to have a real and meaningful conversation with the numinous.

Random quote of the day:

“Take a book, the poorest one written, but read it with the passion that it is the only book you will read—ultimately you will read everything out of it, that is, as much as there was in yourself, and you could never get more out of reading, even if you read the best of books.”

—Søren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

It’s taken me a long time to realize there are people who love to read but who don’t give a damn about how a thing is written. Yeah, I know, should have been obvious with one browse of bestseller books—but, somehow, the concrete realization of this fact  managed to elude me. Of course, not all bestsellers are badly written. Many are quite well written, in fact. But now and then someone comes along like Stieg Larsson or Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer or E. L. James who are really atrocious at narrative but still manage to concoct a compelling story and capture that certain something in the zeitgeist that has people flocking to them.

Full disclosure: I am again attempting to read Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and this time it seems to be sticking, but I have bounced off Larsson and these other writers. I probably won’t try the others again as there seem to be diminishing returns and too many other things I’d rather read. The thing is, as I have been struggling with my own writing, I have also been struggling with my ability to read fiction. I keep bouncing off of books, even well-written ones, even those by old favorites, and I’ve been longing to become immersed in something. I’m far enough past Larsson’s tell-not-show and long infodump opening that the mystery of Tattoo has had a chance to hook me, so I may actually finish this book. No guarantees, though. It’s been the first part of December since I finished anything, even rereads of old favorites. (The last was Deborah Harkness’s Times Convert, the follow-on book to her All Souls Trilogy. It was meh, but I’d loved the other books and wanted to catch up on the characters.)

My writing and my fiction reading have always been connected. One feeds the other, even if what I’m reading has nothing to do with what I’m writing. Being immersed in someone else’s world for a time helps stimulate the mystic place in my brain where my own singing starts. I can’t help thinking that if I cure one symptom it might help cure the other.

I’m still writing almost every day, and it’s still mostly like pulling teeth, but I do plant butt in chair. Most days it isn’t much more than 500 or so words. Some days I’m blessed by 1000 or so. Today, all I managed was 250. But the important part is sitting my butt in the chair, opening the file, and doing something.

So, readers who don’t care how a thing is written. It’s all good. People should like what they like regardless of nerds like me who care about those things. I once had a friend who absolutely refused to read when he was younger, even though it caused him problems in school. He was a bright, imaginative, funny fellow but he just hated reading. Then one day when he was in high school a perceptive teacher shoved a science fiction book into his hands. He was intrigued by the premise and started to read. From that moment on, he became a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy. He always had a book in his hands. He did confess to me, though, that he often skipped the descriptive parts and dialogue tags and read just the dialogue so he could get through the story faster.

And therein hangs a tale: there are many people like him. Not only do they not care how a thing is written, they want to get through the story as fast as possible to find out what happens. No savoring. They don’t really care about “the art of story,” that immersive feel of a book. It’s a mystery to me why they read at all—but again, that’s not for me to decide. People should be allowed to like what they like and how they like it, and no one—well-meaning nerd, politicizing authors, crusading literati, anyone—has the right to tell them otherwise.

There are no shoulds in reading. Only what gets you through the night. And the book.

 

 

Random quote of the day:

“Read widely, and without apology. Read what you want to read, not what someone tells you you should read.”

—Joyce Carol Oates, The Faith of A Writer

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before.”

—Clifton Fadiman, Any Number Can Play

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“You only really ever live in 1 place: a single occupant apartment made of bone, 22 centimeters by 18. You want furniture, you have to read.”

—Joe Hill, Twitterfeed, August 13, 2012

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The only way you learn how to write is by writing.Because that is the way it is done. Because there is no other way to do it. Not one other way.Compulsive diligence is almost enough. But not quite. You have to have a taste for words. Gluttony. You have to want to roll in them. You have to read millions of them by other people. You read everything with grinding envy or weary contempt.”

—John D. McDonald, introduction to Stephen King’s Night Shift

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face…. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.”

—Edward P. Morgan, Clearing the Air

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“(Lord’s Day.) Took physique all day, and, God forgive me, did spend it in reading of some little French romances.”

—Samuel Pepys, diary, February 10, 1661

pepys4WP@@@ 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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Back in 2012, I read the opening pages of a book called Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer and immediately fell in love with the beautiful prose, the complex and rounded characters, the setting of turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and the magical blend of paranormal and crime thriller. Now I’ve finished the third book in that trilogy and I’m happy to say that everything I loved about the first book (and the second) is still there—and many wonderful new elements have been added.

Ms. Moyer has done another splendid job of coming up with a solid and riveting plot mixed with the urgent needs and half-understood messages of the ghosts haunting Delia Ryan. Ms. Moyer’s villains are always haunting and harrowing, and this book is no exception, giving us a truly unique and shiver-inducing baddie. The confusion and turmoil of the world right after World War I is captured with striking immediacy. Desperate European refugees from the chaos of the war’s conclusion seek to find new lives for themselves only to be ruthlessly—and supernaturally—hunted by those they left behind. But Ms. Moyer never loses the human dimension, making even minor characters memorable people the reader cares about.

It’s been a joy to see the central characters grow, change, and deepen over the course of these three books, and I will miss them. I can only hope we meet again sometime. The Delia books have been a rich and satisfying read, first to last.

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