June 20, 2007
The summer is racing by, and what have I done? Not nearly what I should have. I was supposed to be halfway through with two book proposals by now. I've barely made any progress on either. Nor have I gone once to the yoga studio I was so desperate to find. Instead, I've merely done a whole lot of yard work, a lot of cooking, a lot of sewing (two skirts, three dresses--two of which I gave as gifts--and a blouse that still needs the finishing touches), a little blogging, and a hell of a lot of reading.
For a variety of reasons, I've virtually no interest in movies and tv right now. An entire week will pass without my watching more than half an hour of TV. Why would I want to be inside watching some movie on the dvd player when I could be sitting on the ugly couch I dragged out to my porch, reading just about anything I can get my hands on?
By the end of my third semester in a PhD program, I had developed what I called "reader's block": I had read so much that semester, so many books and so many papers, that I couldn't bear to look at a page of print. This was not an acceptable state of affairs; I had to cure the condition over the winter break and be ready to start again spring semester. I figured I needed a book I had already read and found agreeable enough, something I knew could keep my interest but wouldn't make too many intellectual demands because I already had the basics of the story down. So I read Jane Eyre for the second time (which was the only time I really liked it--the first time I thought it was OK and the third time I thought Jane was a dreadful snob very deficient in self-knowledge, and I rather disliked her) and it did indeed ease me back into the pleasure of reading.
This past semester was also pretty reading-intensive, so I don't know why it should be that a few weeks before the semester ended, rather than getting reader's block, I developed an insatiable hunger of books, the likes of which I haven't felt since about sixth grade.
Maybe it's because I knew I had some time, and really could do some pleasure reading, provided I was willing to disregard for a while my ever-present sense of duty. As I discuss in this entry from last summer, I have so much reading to do for my job, both the teaching and the research/writing part, that I rarely read something that is unrelated to some aspect of my career. And I like that reading, I really do: I admire, respect and learn from most of the books I read for teaching or research (if I don't, there's a problem). A often, even if I've read a book simply for pleasure, if I REALLY like it, I'll start trying to figure out how to work it into a syllabus, so I can read it again.
But when I read books as part of my academic career, I feel obligated to do two things: 1) read every single word--I don't skip bits in a book I'm going to teach or quote from, and 2) annotate them in some way--most often by underlining very neatly. I mark passages I find important using colored pencils, plain the first time I read a book and red the second, then blue or something on subsequent readings, so I can tell what reading inspired me to make the lines; and a ruler, so the lines are straight. Because I have an excellent memory and can easily locate and remember the gist of many, many passages in a book, I only write comments in the margins of books I really love or really hate, and even then, they're very neat, because I HATE sloppy markings in a book. I just HATE them. I especially hate other people's sloppy markings. Books containing neon highlighting, underlining or notes written in ink, or even lots of margin comments, always strike me as defiled.
And while all that aids in understanding and remembering a work, it can inhibit the pleasure part. Especially if part of the pleasure is derived from sitting on the porch and feeling a breeze, looking up every so often to admire a pretty spot in the garden or watch the cat stare in rapt attention at a bunny eating clover in the neighbor's lawn.
Posted by holly at June 20, 2007 11:35 AM