Monday, November 30, 2009

Slow reader

A friend asked me the other day what I had been reading lately, and I was shocked to realise the answer: nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but close enough. A couple of throwaway mysteries, that's all. What happened to the person I used to be, forever lost in a story? Curled in a favourite chair, the light behind her shoulder, devouring book after book? Crowded into a tram on the way to work, grateful when it took longer so that she could get in a few extra pages? Reading over breakfast, at lunchtime, after dinner?

Well, she got busy, that's for sure. Three little kids, mountains of dishes and laundry, a couple of weekly volunteer jobs, and a meditative session at the gym every few days: that pretty much eliminated the bulk of my reading time.

Then my kids chat through every meal - if I'm reading, they just talk louder until I pay attention. And in the evenings, we have people over. When we don't, I'm so tired that my limbs ache - my typical day starts at 7, and finishes between 8 and 9, with a heap of kids and cleaning and food preparation in between. Don't get me wrong - I love being with my children, but the constant vigilance, discipline, negotiation and mediation, not to mention the neverending housework, can be incredibly draining. Plus my kids shriek more than I ever expected. Girls are very shrill.

I once heard of a woman who, for an hour after lunch every day, read with a face washer lying next to her. Her children were made to understand that if they came into the room their faces would be scrubbed clean. They very quickly learned to leave their mother alone.

But my children are too little to leave for any length of time. It takes only a minute's inattention for one of them to climb up something and fall off; otherwise, they squabble and screech and drive each other - and me - nuts. When they're resting, the housework beckons, as do the occasional blog and the other tasks I perform each week.

Despite this, I was sufficiently hooked on Patrick O'Brian's novels that I found ways to read them all this year. Twenty novels, devoured in chunks late at night, or nibbled away in paragraphs while standing at the coffee machine. But it took determination, planning, and stamina. I haven't come across anything since that has inspired me to squeeze my time so hard. And I feel such a sense of loss at the end of the series, as if close friends died suddenly, that I am reluctant to immerse myself in anything else for the time being.

In any case, with loss of time comes loss of browsing library shelves - ever tried doing that with automatic doors and a runaway toddler? Browsing online, even other blogs, doesn't come close. It's proving hard to find something to read.

So I'm happily dreaming of O'Brian's sailing ships and concerts in the captain's cabin, and every other story I carry with me until I stumble across something new: another book, another series, another writer which will inspire me to stay up late, or read by the coffee machine, or find other ways to get through a book. Any suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. must read 'elegance of a hedgehog'---so beautifully written (rather than plot driven--with very very short chapters so that it is easy to read in very small bursts.