Help! I Fell Into A Goldfinch-Sized Hole

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.

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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.

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30 thoughts on “Help! I Fell Into A Goldfinch-Sized Hole

  1. We are kindred spirits with regard to reading, books, and love for Donna Tartt’s writing prowess and creativity. Just amazing. We should have seen her together.

  2. Me too. I haven’t started GF yet (still on my to-read list), but I have a tendency to buzz through books without savoring, because there are SO MANY BOOKS I WANT TO READ.
    Sorry for shouting, the topic of books always gets me excited.

  3. So even though I am definitely, definitely skipping the particular trend that is The Goldfinch, I am so with you. Especially this: “I love watching the tally rise as I finish a book– that’s what really gets my juices flowing.” Last year I got obsessed with Goodreads and started a shelf just called “2013” where I logged all my 2013 books, and on January 1st of this year I christened another shelf “2014.” I can’t help but read fast. It’s just that books take me somewhere outside myself, to a place I can’t even reach with my beloved TV, and sometimes, especially lately, I just need to be in that place.

    • Same here. I sometimes wonder if I’m hiding, but then I decide I don’t care. I need to hide and who wants to hide without a book?

      On Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 12:56 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:

      >

  4. I’m with the rest of the bunch, I’m holding out on GF even though I’ve heard good things from people I respect. And one thing I see from these comments is that I need to stay away from Goodreads. It’s better that I stick to the little paper list I have next to my bed. I think the most I’ve ever read in a year was 20. I LOVE to devour a good book (hello Gone Girl in less than 30 hours) but then I usually need some time off to digest. I say who cares. If you’re reading it’s a good thing!

  5. I prefer big ol’ literary novels because once I’ve invested in an alternate reality, I want it to engage me for a long time. Even if I read 40 pages a week, I’d rather have books that affect me enough to remember them for years. So give me Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, and The Goldfinch over three years and I’m happy.

      • Oh, I’ll finish about the same time you do. Because I won’t let myself get past page 100. If I get too far in, and it’s too late to slow down, and I’m in love with it, it’ll be done. And there won’t be more. And I’ll be wrecked.

        Baggage.

        2020 sounds about right.

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