No sooner had I declared a regimented approach to my “longform” readings than I had, essentially, already diverged from it. I say “essentially” because the diversions were made not with novels (and longform non-fiction) but novellas and other short books. One quick flyby of my present “to-read” list that same day and, more than the need to structure my intake, I felt the insuppressible need to buoy it—to close longstanding “gaps” (with varied motivated reasonings). These gaps Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Metamorphosis, Anthem (don’t ask), The Postman Always Rings Twice, We Should All Be Feminists, The Art of War, Antwerp, and a few I’m forgetting: all read (or listened to) in a handful of days. While they might not have encroached upon my “reading slate” by virtue of their brevity, they certainly muddied up the time(s) I had allotted to reading—which, if you’ll recall, was the whole forking point of the thing; its jetfuel.
I have actually followed the outline I laid out; it’s just that, now, reads which were meant to have been monthly (this month) are, some of them, likely to be carried into next. It doesn’t help that the novels in question are long novels: Beauty is a Wound (contemporary fiction), A Brief History of Seven Killings (audiobook; review forthcoming), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (nightbook; a many-month affair I now wish would’ve been no affair at all), et cetera. But “timesinks” are only liable to inconvenience if one continuously breaks appointment with them. (Say, for shorter reads.)
“Interest is inherently curious, and just as easily distracted”—so I said; and it’s amazing to me how oblivious I am, if not to my own advice, then its unspoken instructions. I write on disciplining my reading, and my very first act as Minister of this alien frontier is to go aslantly rogue against my own rule—still officiating its lamplit, dark corners but now with none-too-few libations, why not. And do I, this morning after Valentines, regret the toss with Kafka or turn with Capote? Fork no. To read great literature, regardless the opportunity costs elsewhere, is always to come to one’s senses—or colour them cosmically anew. To unsink treasures, whether or not you knew they were there.
Literature is, anyway, it’s own libation. Each time your world turned vinyl, velar, Valkyrie: but always, in every case, a lasting variation on the theme of you. Maybe I was wrong, and we, not it, are the water here: our colour given us by “imagined” but nevertheless “actual” territory that, however vanishing, continues its life offshore, below the waves—mostly in the dark, maybe, most of the time—but always toward depth and never, not even in failure, away from it.
“To land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly.” Yes, but often an ocean of distractions lies between us and it, which is fine, actually, as long as one stays the course toward growth, novelty—these not set locations or fixed positions. My “reading slate” revised is essentially the same as before, though now I’m even more aware of its being a production, that the intermissions—whether I schedule them or not—are inevitable; and that these will sometimes last long enough for flights (or dives) to faraway places. The “actors”, happily, won’t mind: falling through the sky or not, “angelic” or not, they are—by disposition and design—frozen in place as much as time.