Revisiting a Radical Resolution
At the beginning of this year, I talked about the books I had read during the year just past and made a resolution to read fewer books in the year ahead. Foolish? Yes, I now realize that it was. Why? Because, reading isn’t something I do according to plan. After I finish one book, I reach for another, read it, then select another, etc., etc., etc., gobbling them up like popcorn. I suspect this is true for most readers.
What possessed me to even consider such a radical resolution? My objective was to read slowly, to take time out along the way to savor the language and, when finished, take a little time off to think about the book’s theme and the writer’s style – the things we did in school when we were reading books assigned to us with the goal of improving our minds and broadening our horizons. I’m long out of school, but, let’s face it – my mind still needs improving and my horizons could certainly be broader, so it seemed like a good idea. Maybe it was, but it didn’t work for me.
As with most resolutions I began with the best of intentions. I picked my first book for 2013, Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (yes, I would recommend it), and started reading. I planned to pay attention the language, dissect Ms. Lippman’s method of constructing her story, and, most important to me, figure out how she made her characters come so vividly alive on the page. I’d ask myself: What makes this book worthy of a reader’s time? Somewhere along the line, my noble intentions flew out the window. I became immersed in the story and just kept turning pages, needing to know what happened next. In other words, I enjoyed the story and forgot to analyze it.
That happened with book after book – not at all what I had in mind at the beginning of the year. My goal was to become a thoughtful reader and, in the process, a better writer. I still think it was a worthy goal, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not meant to be a thoughtful reader (though I haven’t given up on the better writer part). I’m a lover of stories and, like all lovers, not particularly analytical about my passion. I love what I love and the intellect has very little to do with it. After I finish a book instead of taking time to analyze it, I reach for another. Oftimes, my choice is inspired by the book just finished. That’s as analytical as I get and I’ve decided it’s OK. I read for pleasure. Pure and simple.
Having said all that, I’ll add that the experiment was not a total failure. There was another part of my resolution – one that I was able to keep. More about that … soon.