I seem to have lost the ability to read.
Don’t freak out. I mean I can read words just like normal.
The problem arises when they are placed sequentially in a fancy, literary-type book.
I’ve noticed this little issue for a while and it’s been growing and growing. I can’t be bothered reading award winning literary fiction any more. It does my head in. I have no patience for it. It’s slow. It ponderous. It makes me fall asleep. Is the problem with me or the books?
Most recently I’ve failed to get past the opening pages of The Poisonwood Bible even though I’ve had it on loan from a patient friend for over a year. Meanwhile I’ve re-read all of LM Montgomery (Anne, Emily and the like), every autobiography or memoir of a writer, comedian or actor that’s been release in the last couple of years (Tina Fey, Rob Lowe (x2), Amy Poehler, all of Caitlin Moran’s books, Graham Norton, basically any British comedy with a half-arsed idea for a book – Rob Brydon, David Mitchell, Russell Brand and the like). In the past year or so, I’ve also read all of Freya North’s chick-lit, and everything by Alexander McCall Smith set in Edinburgh. I’ve managed the latest Ian Rankin’s bar two.
So I guess it’s not that I can’t read. I just can’t get my brain to focus on certain kinds of reading. Why?
Well I’ve done a lot of staring into space over the last few days and I’ve come up with the following reasons.
My attention span is short. I do blame social media even though I like it and think it serves a useful purpose most of the time. (a topic for another post)
My attention span for anything more complicated than Frankie magazine or the latest Buzzfeed listicle is also kaput. I blame completing a PhD. My brain had to work very hard for a long time. It got tired.
Some books are really thick and big and look boring. I would rather watch the film/TV series/read the Wikipedia summary. It’s quicker.
Books that win prizes (Booker, Pulitzer, Miles Franklin etc etc) are often more about writing than reading. Just a rash, unsupported statement there. Do with it what you will. See points 1 and 2 for why I’m not expanding on it here.
So this non-reading thing has been coming on for a while. And it’s concerning me because now that I’m bona-fide librarian surely I should be reading “worthy, proper books”. Well we all realise that is a snobby sentence of the highest order and that the high-low culture dichotomy collapsed some decades ago (see cultural studies 101 for further details). But still, surely some of these books I don’t seem to be able to read are lovely?
So with that in mind I’ve set myself a reading challenge. It’s called All the Light We Cannot See. I’ve got the rest of the holidays to read it. I’ve deleted FB from my phone to avoid the endless, mindless scrolling and liking. Twitter will be next. At the moment I’m allowed to keep Instagram.
I’ve read the first few pages. I’d tell you what they were about but I can’t remember so I’m going to have to read them over. To succeed I am going to have to read in the morning, sitting up in a chair with a cup of tea. I may have to take notes.
Wish me luck.
I did it. I finished the book. I read the whole thing. It was great. Sometimes I fell asleep, but not immediately. I read it in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. I even got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get home so I could keep reading! Success. Achievement unlocked. Hurrah for me. etc.
FB is still absent from my phone. Not that I haven’t replaced that mindless scrolling with mindless scrolling through twitter and instagram but I guess it’s one less app to mindlessly scroll through which has to be something right? My current rule is that I can use FB when I am sitting at my computer which is less than 6000 times a day so I think I’m cracking the FB habit.
I”m also on the lookout for my next book that isn’t on my Kindle.