Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category


I should probably be reading.  Or doing something else productive.  But I have a work date with CC this afternoon, so I have to admit, I don’t feel a huge amount of motivation to read now, when I will be peer-pressured into reading later.  I think I’m going to make a deal with myself that if I can finish this freaking novel by tomorrow that I don’t have to read anything at all on Saturday or Sunday.  Maybe.

By the way, I have a post brewing about how the experience of preparing for AST is bringing up a lot of post-traumatic grad school shit I thought I’d put behind me.  It’s probably a good experience to have, except, I am not into the actual experiencing of it at all.

But I’m too lazy to write about that now, so I guess maybe I’ll go for a walk or something?  It is, of course, already 85 degrees, which makes that seem like a not great idea.  I don’t know.  I’m whiny and I don’t want to do anything. Guess I might as well read.  Perhaps it will cheer me up.

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Luckily, I’ve been through this enough times that I can diagnose it for what it is, but it doesn’t make it suck less.  I suppose, looking on the bright side, at least I’m not sick, which oftentimes is one of the symptoms.  Nah, I feel fine, except for I’m… ugh.

Part of my problem is that I’m rereading – like, really reading again and reseeing – a book that really fucks with my head.  You know, it’s funny.  People always want to know what my “favorite” book is.  I never know how to answer, because I think people want me to name a book that I “enjoy” the most or something, but the books that are most important to me don’t tend to be books that I enjoy.  The books that are most important to me tend to fuck me up.  They are books that don’t allow me to enjoy them, but also that don’t allow me to maintain any intellectual distance.  Instead, well, it’s like they make my insides hurt.  And they make me…. I don’t know… they do something to me that I then vomit out in my actual life, in ways that aren’t terribly productive.

And I also need to make my to-do list for the summer, and while I know basically what’s on it, I’m procrastinating about mapping it all out because I feel like my summer is all full already before I’ve even begun, and I feel like I have no time, and I feel all angsty about that.

And I need to write a conference paper that I’m giving at month’s end, and while I feel like the whole thing is there in my head, I don’t want to write it.

And I had a conversation with FB, who apparently is trying to be a Real Boyfriend to a Real Person rather than a Fake Boyfriend to me, which is all for the best,and actually I think it’s the best possible thing he could do, but it still leaves me feeling a little… wistful.  Yes, wistful is the right word.  Not so much about our fake relationship or anything…. I don’t know.  I’m actually really happy that this is the way that things are going because it will take us out of this loop we’ve been in for years.  Maybe we can finally actually be real friends?  But I feel happy about it at the exact same time that I feel, well, wistful.  It feels like a window of opportunity, that only was ever open the tiniest crack anyway, is now closed.  Which is, again, probably for the best, for the both of us, and I’m not upset in the sense of feeling betrayed or hurt by it or something – remember, I’ve embarked on the dating thing this year, too.  I suppose it’s just that as much as you are happy about something and know it’s a good thing, you can still feel sad at the same time for the parallel path that won’t happen because of the good thing.  (Not that the parallel path was ever going to happen, but the idea of it wasn’t closed off before, if that makes sense.)

But so my transition into the summer is kind of an angsty one this year.  Whereas last year I had all of the stress of the house and moving and everything, I also had the excitement of those things.  This year, well, this is my life.  And it rains every freaking day.  And I’m gloomy and morose.

I suppose I’ll go read the book that’s fucking me up some more.

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So, I’m about a third of the way through Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (which is motherfucking totally and incontrovertibly awesome, at least so far, for so many reasons but mainly the thing that I love about Franzen is just his gorgeous sentences which are, like, I don’t know, dream sentences or sentences from some sort of magical land of sentences or something, but I digress), which I am reading on my shiny new Kindle.  I still have not played with the PDF-reading capability, and when I do so I’ll update this post to add my thoughts about that, but I do have an opinion of the Kindle as a tool for reading.

First, and most important, I don’t want to marry my Kindle.  (Though I do want to marry Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.)  When I really love something – a meal, my house, whatever – I often will say that I want to marry it.  I don’t want to marry my Kindle, but I would like to have a sexy affair with it.  Because here’s the thing: the Kindle is exciting and new and promises all these things that boring old spouse-like books can’t do, but at the end of the day, you have a fling with the Kindle; you don’t make a lifetime commitment to it.  Why not?

1.  Page numbers.  I am committed to page numbers.  I am committed to pages.  I don’t like that I have no idea where I am in the regular book as I read on the Kindle, and the little bar at the bottom that says I’m 34% done doesn’t mean anything to me, whereas it does mean something to me to know that I’m on page 187, or whatever.

2.  One of the things that is lovely about books (as opposed to movies or other forms of narrative in other media) is the ability to move around in the book – to flip back to refresh one’s memory about a detail or to make a note based on something that comes later, to flip forward to get a sense of when a chapter ends or to get a sense of how to divide up one’s reading time in manageable chunks.  Now.  When you’re reading what I like to call a “Kroger book” – a book bought on impulse that you gulp down and that you will likely never read again and that you certainly won’t teach or work on – the fact that the Kindle does not allow for this doesn’t matter, but when you’re reading something in which you’re more invested and that you’d like to read more deeply, it is irritating.

3.  As a reader, I remember parts of the book I suppose at least to some extent photographically.  I think of a scene, and I know around what page it’s on, and I know whether it’s on the left page or the right, and I know whether it begins at the top of a page or the bottom.  With the Kindle, that relationship to the words on the page is erased.  And it’s a problem, because even though one can use bookmarks or make notes, one doesn’t always know at the moment of reading that one will want to return to a scene.  Losing that relationship means that you can’t find that scene again without reading the whole book again.

4.  Marginalia is limited by the interface – by the fact that the keyboard doesn’t have punctuation other than the period, by the fact that one can’t make circles or arrows or asterisks or things in margins, by the fact that one’s comments don ‘t appear in the margins but rather like endnotes, which is a different thing….  And marginalia is personal and beautiful and it would be totally sad if that were lost in this digital age.  There is something about one’s writing – one’s own handwriting – on a book that is intimate and proprietary and important.  And there’s also something transgressive about that actual writing on the pages of a book – as opposed to the legitimized making of a note in the Kindle – that is… well, it’s special and it’s one of the things that I love about reading.  [Aside: I think this is one of the reasons that I found it shocking when Historiann mentioned a while ago sharing a book with her husband.   Maybe I’ll post more about this at another time, but I need books to be mine and I need to feel free to mark them up and to dog-ear pages and to ruin the book for people other than me.  If people read a book that is mine (that’s not just some crap book that I care nothing about) , they read it through my eyes, and they see into my head.  That can be very romantic – especially when one first becomes involved with somebody, showing them what’s inside of one’s brain or reading what’s inside of someone else’s brain – but quite frankly I don’t think that sort of boundarylessness is necessarily sustainable for the long term.]  And so, yeah, I believe in marginalia and I believe in books being mine and I believe in the privacy of reading, and somehow the e-reader phenomenon compromises that, I think.

But I’ll tell you what.  There are some positives:

1.  Not accumulating crappy books in one’s house.  The way I figure it, the Kindle will pay for itself in the bookshelves that I don’t need to buy, and also in encouraging me to read slightly higher quality crap than the crap that I end up buying on impulse at the grocery store.

2.  The ability to search through an entire novel, something that I can see using for work in conjunction with actual real books for my “real” reading.  (I can imagine this actually being really positive for literary criticism, actually, this advance in technology.)

3.  The feel of it in one’s hand is great, and as a person who hates reading gigantic hard cover books, I like the lightness and the slim design of the Kindle.

4.  The screen is fantastic on one’s eyes.  It “feels” like reading a book, even though it’s electronic.

5.  It is nice to be able to look things up on the internet with it, though I do have to figure out how to turn off the automatic dictionary thing, because dude, I know more words than I don’t know and the definitions showing up annoys me.

So I’ll update this when I play with the PDF reading, but for now, I really need to return to the awesome awesomeness of Freedom (although now we’re getting to the Mountaintop Removal part, which I feel like is annoying and filled with the potential to be annoyingly earnest and stupid, but I’m hoping that I’m wrong about that).

Edited to Add:

So I took a tiny break for some lunch and played around with the Kindle PDF-reading capability.  It actually seems pretty good, though a bit small (although it’s a lot easier to read in landscape view as opposed to vertically).  I need to experiment with how I want to use it, but I think that it’s definitely good for highlighting passages and taking notes, and for having all PDFs in one place.  Still, if an article is really important, I think I will probably print it out.  I’m envisioning this as more of a storage option for PDFs that I might need but am not entirely sure about, if that makes sense.  I’ll keep you guys posted as I actually work with it, but that won’t happen for a few days – I’m too busy with the Franzen!

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