Monday, September 03, 2012

A Slow Turning


How one writer learned to read again, slowly. (The Rumpus/photo by Flickr user Wade Rockett)
This, after all, is the best thing I ever did for my reading, which might be the best thing I ever did for my writing.

When I first arrived at grad school, I received a list of 100 books. 100 books I ought to have read. I scanned it in a panic. Some of the titles I recognized. Many I didn’t. And I had read, maybe, five of them. So I got to work, driven by insecurity and hunger. I felt so far behind my classmates—and I felt such bloated pleasure in shoving all these stories into my eye. By the end of my first year, I had read every book on the list.

Maybe this was an accomplishment—I certainly felt good about it at the time—but really, I read with such speed and carelessness, nothing stuck. Ask me about The Magic Mountain today and I may puree some The End of the Affair into it. And didn’t Beckett write Time’s Arrow? Or maybe that was Calvino. I could not process and benefit from all those wondrous sentences and plots and characters, snarled together as they were in my mind.

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