Monday, June 11, 2007

On Not Reading

For the last week or so, I haven't been reading at all during the day, and only managing to read a page or two before falling asleep at night. For a while now it's been The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , a totally crazy book that espouses the theory that humans weren't fully conscious until about 1000 BC, and that before that time, the hallucinated voices of gods guided their actions. Why this feels like good moving reading I don't know, except that it remains interesting even in one to two page chunks -- no plot to follow.

I've not-read before, most notably when my kids were smaller. Breastfeeding age is great for reading, but the time right after that, when they keep you up at night and crawl onto your lap whenever you sit down during the day, is hell on reading. In those days I'd fall asleep as soon as I so much as hefted a book in my hands. In fact, for me that period only ended a couple of years ago, when my youngest entered kindergarten.

I have to admit I miss heartily the days of childhood reading, when nobody cared if you shut your bedroom door and sprawled out on your floor and read whatever, all day long. One of my fondest memories is having appendicitis when I was 16, and literally fainting into the library books all over my floor. I woke up in a bed of books. It felt right.

Not reading feels wrong. The days mush into each other, no chapters, no covers. It feels lonely, too, and isolating. The days might be full of accomplishments, but not a lot of meaning or mystery.

It's not just the lack of time and energy that cuts into reading, but the fussiness that comes from having too many opinions about books. Sometimes my feelings about books are like a four-year-old boy's about food: I can't eat that, the rice touched the peas! Lately, between cleaning the new place, cleaning the old place, packing and unpacking and finding new places for my old junk, I yearn desperately for a potboiler, some big dreamy book, and time, and energy, and the generosity of spirit to fall full-bodied into it.


laura said...

So... You're saying I should NOT remove that library of books which exists between Stel's sheets and inside her pillowcases? I might be doing harm? Sheesh, who woulda thought that kind of thing was genetic?!?

rmellis said...

It's a powerful gene. O likes to sleep with his feet on the pile at the end of his bed...