Of all the things I miss because of my all-consuming blogging hobby (having a clean house, spending time with my husband, etc.), it’s books I miss the most (sorry, Jeff). Specifically, the endings of books, because I haven’t reached an ending in months. Not since I finished Sara Connell’s Bringing in Finn, have I found those two sweet words on a page: The End.
Last year, with a newborn, I finished 30 books. This year, I will be lucky to finish 15. And with some of them, I am so close. Here’s my current in-progress reading list:
I am only 50 pages away from finishing The Finkler Question, which I really love, but you know what slowed me down? Goodreads. I curse Goodreads for ruining this book when I was on pace to finish it before Obama gets re-elected. But, I perused the reviews on Goodreads last week, and there were so many negative critiques of the book: “too ponderous,” “I just didn’t know enough about Judaism to ‘get’ it,” etc. Ever since, I experience less pleasure when reading it, which confirms how sensitive I am to negative criticism.
The Pale King? I adore it and recognize it’s no small feat to work my way through David Foster Wallace’s prose and footnotes. But, I can’t seem to push. I don’t spend my late night glued to a book these days; I spend them writing or eating pudding (or both).
But, when I scour writing advice, it always says that good writers are voracious readers. Does blog reading count? I read at least a dozen blog posts per day, and many of them are better written than the books on my shelves. (Am I talking about you? Yes, YOU, I am talking about your great writing.) I read the newsletter from Sadie’s preschool, and I read my students’ papers, which have sparks of inspiration. That’s writing, right?
I hadn’t thought deeply about my inability to finish a book until I read this post on The Variegated Life that looked a little more critically at this. (Here’s another post that questions what we read, why, and how it changes over time, just like our writing.) I don’t mean “critically” in the sense that I suck because I can’t finish Name All The Animals, but I like asking the question Why? or What does it mean? Now, I even assume it might mean something wonderful is emerging from me, like my own writing.
Speaking of, let’s bring my novel-in-progress out of the closet. I have about 34,008 words written. It’s a glorious, chaotic mess that I am totally in love with. I haven’t let a single person read a word, though I have discussed the “big picture” with my husband and some friends. I haven’t done much re-reading of what I have written so far, because I am afraid it will scare me off. “There will be plenty of time to edit later on,” is what I say when I want to peek over at Chapter 4.
Just yesterday, I started a chapter from the point of view of a character that I wasn’t planning to give that space to. It was a thrill to imagine what he was thinking after meeting the protagonist. I even thought about what was in his pocket (lint, because I write realism, people).
So the other books will have to wait, because my characters need space. I need space.
There will be plenty of time for the endings.