Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My (disjointed) reading life

I always have several books going at once, always reading three or four at the same time.

I am the opposite of my wife, who diligently finishes one book before moving on to the next. By contrast, as a reader, I seem to have the attention span of butterfly. I start a book, love it, see another, drift aimlessly into that one, forget the first, start a third, forget the second, then wander back to the first, and finally finish it. The amazing thing is that when I leave and come back, I never forget where I am in the text or what is happening. But the end result is that it takes me forever to finish a book.

Often, I think I don’t read as much as I should—or, rather, not the books that I would like to read, those that would allow me to stay on top of the crime-fiction genre (I’m half-way through "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"). I read and reread many classics for my work (I teach a demanding junior Advanced Placement course and several elective classes). But spending 30 hours each year with Daisy Buchanan only goes so far (it certainly didn’t help Gatsby all that much).

I have a friend who reviews books and who, like me, works at a boarding school. He reads and reviews novels from 6 to 8 a.m. My free time (early morning or late night) is spent writing, so reading plays second fiddle.

Yet I don’t believe any writer’s reading and writing lives are mutually exclusive. Stephen King, for instance, in his "On Writing," says he is a slow reader, finishing 80 books annually. If that pace is slow, my pace is reverse. The irony to all of this is that I am greatly influenced by what I read—stylistically (I will reread an F. Scott Fitzgerald sentence several times to examine the syntax and punctuation) and content (I marvel at Ed McBain’s ability to establish a character in 10 words).

I would love to hear what the Type M community is reading. This week, I have Lisa Gardner’s "Hide" and Tony Hillerman’s "Dance Hall of the Dead" going. Maybe I’ll even finish one.


Vicki Delany said...

I'm pretty much a beginning-end of one book reader, although I will sometimes have a non-fiction on the go at the same time. I've been reading On the Farm, as I mentioned, and have taken a break from it for a while. Finished Crime Machine by Giles Blunt last night and found it disappointing after an exceptionally good first 100 pages. Then started Date with a Sheesta by Anthony Bidulka. Good so far.

Rick Blechta said...

I KNOW I don't read enough. I used to but then writing got in the way. ;)

Last weekend, though, I made time and read Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer which my wife has been after me to read forever. I found it absolutely excellent.

John R Corrigan said...

Rick, I'm teaching Connelly's CITY OF BONES in my mystery lit class right now. He's a master.

Rick Blechta said...

Great title, too, although I think his best title is The Concrete Blonde, also a great book. Connelly is fabulous.