The following has always been a true statement since Miss Hunter taught me to read in kindergarten: I love to read. I remember tenting my covers and burning through Judy Blume’s canon with a flashlight in junior high. My love for a good story arc and a compelling plot runs deep.
Apparently, however, not as deep as the satisfaction of finishing a book. I think I’ve had my tenses wrong all this time. It’s not that I’ve loved to read; I’ve loved to have read. I love watching the tally rise as I finish a book– that’s what really gets my juices flowing.
Take this year. I’ve read 18 books so far. Around book 15, I started geeking out at the prospect of pushing myself to read 50 this year. Could I? Should I? Let’s do it! I picked up the pace, hoping to finish June with at least 23 books stuffed in my noggin.
Then I started The Goldfinch. Damn, you Goldfinch, with your perfect descriptions of EVERYTHING and your expert language. Damn you and your 80 gazillion pages. The Goldfinch is a speed bump on my quest to digest more and more books. There’s been no zipping through Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Yet, I keep returning to see what’s next for the young protagonist Theo Decker. I’m rooting for him; I adore the beautiful language. (I’m supposed to call it “prose” and get my English degree on, but it feels like language to me; I want to bathe in it, marinade in it, and hope that some of her mastery rubs off on me.)
So, now I’ve spent a week with GF and am only 1/3 through. The irony in all of this is that my next book is Proust, a challenge-read that a friend and I are undertaking for this summer. (I should probably make peace with the fact that I’m perhaps only going to read 20 books this year.)
But the bigger issue? I might want to look at my values because this little exercise, this musty literary corner of my life is a microcosm– how I do anything is how I do everything. And my first impulse is always to value speed above thoroughness, quantity over pleasure and the goal above the journey.
And that is my real problem, not that GF had more pages than red states have guns. No, the real problem is that there’s a battle I’m eternally (and internally) engaged in– how to harmonize all my wild and ferocious impulses into something manageable, productive, and ultimately beautiful, even those that are at odds with one another.