Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The Trouble with Reading
I've fallen down a rabbit hole but it's ok, I've been here before.
As a kid I spent entire years of my life here, reading book after book, walking around with barely one foot in this world. Having kids meant I had to choose the Now, although I could have easily become one of those professors that bumps into things and wears the same clothes three days in a row.
I could have been even weirder than I am now. Imagine.
I watch my son, coming late to the experience of really reading, doing the same. He comes home late from school and immediately excuses himself, apple in hand, to his room. He lays on his bed sideways, propped on an elbow, facing the wall and curled around his book.
I make no sound when I see him there-the large, messy pile of books next to his bed a small version of my own. I know that he's not really there, and that if I speak to him the voice that answers me won't be his.
Inside the books he is finding the things that I want him to find, and the things that I'm afraid he'll find. He reads about the Chumash, the Maus graphic novels that make their ugly but necessary mark on him, John Muir's memoirs.
At this age I know that each book will somehow be about him, while the books I read are less clear to me; a Chinese scholar swatting flies under Chairman Mao's rule, a plain slave marrying a farmer and living through cycles of want and prosperity, a Black Atlanta teenager navigating a complicated family, Indian immigrants and the seductively academic world they inhabit. I recognize the universal problems of "being", the work of becoming oneself among the complications of community and family, the blurry line that context makes between right and wrong.
And when I get up from my books, I have that old familiar feeling of being a little tender and lost in the world. I look at a lamp and try to force myself to think "lamp," but I can't.
Today my mind is curled around its books. I am turned towards a wall, but I see everything.
What I'm reading this week:
The Bitter Sea, Charles N. Li
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck (again)
Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri (run, run, run to buy this)
Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones
Swim Back to Me, Ann Packer
The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv