Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dysfunction Junction

I have a host of deficiencies as a writer.  I'm a puppy in a small pack, and I know that.  However, I've always considered myself a voracious, compulsive reader.

Since I've been writing seriously, though, I've become aware that I don't read the same way anymore.  Let me explain by contrasting how I used to read with how I read now:

Days Gone By:  I would pick up a new book, either at the library or the discount bookseller or, better yet, borrowed from a friend.  After graduating high school, I no longer had the funds to support my new-paperback habit, so cheaper was better.  My new acquisition was generally from a trusted author (C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, Anne Rice) or a trusted genre (fantasy, chick lit, romance).  This book came with me everywhere: city buses, lunch, work, dinner, and even on walks.  I read during every spare moment, gorging myself on words until I got to the end of the book and reveled in the writer's great denouement and hidden messages or morals.

Present Day: I don't read print books anymore.  I have several books on my Kindle, and I'm trying to force myself back into print using my love of gadgets, but it's pretty slow going.  I have the very unfortunate habit of skipping ahead, past all the bulky prose that sets up scenery and emotion straight for the meat, the climax, and the heart of the story.  Because of this tragic propensity, I've had to switch to audiobooks.  You can't skip ahead or skim past the spoken word.  You have to slow down and absorb everything.  It's been a godsend.  But what's worse: I can't wait for the ending of the book.  I have to know in advance how it'll end.  I will do a Wikipedia search for the book and devour the plot, then return to the book to see the beauty of how the writer gets us there.

Maybe you think that what I'm going to say next is some backwards attempt at justifying this new method of mine, and maybe you're right, but I honestly believe this: The journey is not about the destination, but about all the scenery and experiences along the way.  Even saying that, though, you rarely ever in life embark on a journey without knowing your destination.  You can't buy a train ticket or plane ticket without knowing where you're going.  Even if you do go on a rambling road trip, you have an idea what direction you're traveling.  For me, knowing where the book ends up allows me to appreciate the unfolding scenery and gives me permission to relax and marvel at the different tricks and traps laid out by the author.

Okay, okay, I know, I'm broken and dysfunctional when it comes to reading.  So shoot me.

1 comment:

  1. I keep redirecting my perspective back to the joy of the journey these days. I'm happier if I can pull it off, because ignoring the scenery means you get one little blip of joy upon arrival, and then a big desolate nothing after. A whole journey internalized lasts longer than a mere blip.

    I can't stand audio books, because they put me to sleep (without my invested effort of reading, I become more passive, and those melodic sultry voices knock me out every time). But I do like reading a book the second time; since I know how it ends, I can just enjoy the ride.

    Great post as always. It's always a spark in my day to see something new here.