That terror up there: Me with disheveled hair, the makings of a grimace, and a buffalo clutched to my side—and standing before woefully disorganized bookshelves. I’m putting this here because it’s a Sunday night (which means Monday is just a couple of hours away; the dread is making me so sick, it’s almost funny)—I’m putting this here, as if I’ll ever need a reminder that coming to this place (and, you know, what this place stands for, for me—the reading and the writing about the reading) makes me happy.
There’s been an almost hysterical edge to this past weekend’s reading. Work’s the matter: The next couple of months are sure to make good on its threat to burn the heart out of yours truly, and that kerfuffle begins this week. And so, once the weekend kicked off in earnest: I returned to A Meaningful Life, rereading choice scenes, after finishing it late last week; I dueled with Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, and it’s safe to say that I was not the victor in that face-off; I also spent most of the day with The Bell Jar—lo and behold, I am not any keener on jumping off rooftops. All while feverishly writing in my reading notebook, and imbibing insane amounts of caffeine and nicotine. (These when I am not plastered in bed, reacquainting myself with the sweet, uninterrupted sleep I have so very much missed in these past few weeks.)
Yes, the kind of reading I’ve been doing lately is one that, primarily, seeks to reassure myself that Real Life and the myriad terrors it’s been serving up lately can be staved off—even vanquished under the onslaught of words, words, words. Although, haha, I don’t know why I gravitated to the three up there, as collectively they seem to be tailor-fit to depress the bejeebies out of me. Davis’ novel is about a man who hates his job and whose marriage is falling apart (and there is no assurance of a happy ending); Shields has constructed a manifesto on the kind of writing I have long ago forgotten how to do; the Plath is infamously about a young (promising!) woman who descends into a crippling and vividly described depression.
This is not the place—and my mind wouldn’t be equipped for it—to wonder at how exactly my mood (existential status) dictates my reading habits. It does, however, bring to mind a rather curious quote from Nick Hornby:
I don’t have the heart to tell my sons that the older one gets, the less funny literature becomes—and they would refuse to believe me if I tried to explain that some people don’t think jokes even belong in proper books. I won’t bother breaking the news that, if they remain readers, they will insist on depressing themselves for about a decade of their lives, in a concerted search of gravitas through literature.
If it seems I’m depressing myself through the books I read, on the contrary: I’ve felt so despairing (and exhausted by it!) that I can face any paper-brick of sadness thrown my way; you just bring it on, Universe. [See how I felt an easing within me as I was reading The Bell Jar—and this after years and years of avoiding this book, as I’d been afraid it’d send me into a tailspin that’ll be more painful and tiring to get out of.]
Or perhaps there’s no gloom and doom about this kind of reading. Perhaps I’m just trying valiantly here, my friends, to read as much as I can, to find as much comfort as is possible, in the books that have long stood guard over me, tucked haphazardly as they are in my shelves—before shit hits the fan. [Oh, wait.]
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The photo above was taken by P. near the start of the year. I tried to look my usual broody self but he would have none of it and yelled at me to goddamn smile, to fucking relax and look happy about it, for heaven’s sake. I found myself about to laugh—this man has always made me laugh, always—and it was at that moment that he took this picture. So that’s not hysteria, come to think of it—but the bubbling start of giggling about utmost silliness, one perhaps mixed with awe that it’s so easy to laugh.
P.’s on his way, right now—driving back to me after spending the weekend with his family living out of town. The Fortress of Solitude will be a little less lonely tonight, I’m getting actual food in my belly, and I can store up the happy thoughts for the week ahead. And: I’ll see you guys tomorrow; I’ll be here tomorrow. I promise.