Let’s try this one again.
The “Currently Reading” counter on my Goodreads account has morphed into tally of bibliophilic failures; since the tail-end of January and all throughout February, the books themselves have been shuttling in and out of my bags, on top of desks both at work and at home, beneath my pillows, beside the bed, on the floor, and until recently—in the case of poor Simenon—where I keep my underwear. They’ve gone to and fro Quezon City and the heart of Manila, they’ve sat quietly inside my bag, beside computer cords and my make-up kit and chocolate bars, while I sat through meetings and had dinners both welcome and not. They’ve been opened, marked, closed, then set aside in favor of other books—a book about a defeated man, David Shields’ hysteria, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels, half a dozen (oh lord) romances.
It’s not like I haven’t been reading. And, given the evidence, it’s not like I haven’t read anything that stings—something I’ve been twaddling on and on about recently. Then again, some of the books I have read of late offer that emotional ache—it’s a physical ache that blooms at the very center of your chest and spreads outward, right to the tips of your fingers. Other books are simply to pass the time with—something to distract. (Which is not to say that this cheapens the experience; I truly believe that some books slink toward you under that banner alone.)
Some failures are more understandable than others: I’m resigned to no longer reading Swann’s Way at a set timeframe, and with an internet full of strangers who intimidate me with of their natural affinity for Proust. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who reads Proust—not even one translated by Lydia Davis. The past months haven’t been conducive to long paragraphs about nothing, or about choice French things. Augh.
The inability to barrel through the Simenon, however, confounds me. It’s so slim—and, on the assumption that it’s good literature, it ought to be intense, concentrated reading. But the Simenon—which I ambled through okay enough when I first started reading it—has lost what urgency it might have had, in the face of my neglect.
The Munro, I suppose, was just wishful thinking. After my hysterical ode to the short story, you’d think the Munro—considered by many her best, and I’ve already long devoted myself to her work—would be a breeze. But I hardly read a page. (Here’s the best time to feel like a fraud, Sasha, don’t you think?) I’m almost afraid to keep on trying with this one; I know in my gut that I’ll like these stories, that they’re good. And forcing them on myself won’t help anyone, not at all.
And Padgett Powell’s novel-in-questions—well, I don’t think I ever thought of it as a novel. I don’t care for how it imagines itself as a novel. It’s just a bunch of questions—some nonsensical, some overwhelmingly twee, some earnest in a trying-too-hard kind of way—that, when I feel like, I answer. I even thought of doing a series over at my Tumblr of my responses to the book’s questions—how else to “read” an interrogative mood, after all—but even the lure narcissism and self-indulgence failed.
The reader in me that insists on order wants to be done with the Simenon and the Powell, if only for the sake of saying, “Hell yeah, that’s finally that.” And, being all-too-familiar with the void of listless reading, I’m almost afraid of starting out with a new agenda—of letting a natural reading flow in the coming days—without having finished at least those two. They’d be casting a pall over the reading that will follow, I just know it. Which is to say: I may just be fucked.