I Don't Know What the Matter is...

Tuesday March 4, 2008 in books |

…but I’m terribly unsettled in my reading. It took me real, concentrated effort to finish Day by A.L.Kennedy, a book I’d been very much looking forward to. I usually do so well with Costa winners (Stef Penney, William Boyd) and expected to enjoy this Second World War themed novel, but it was such hard work to read that it was like trudging uphill whilst wearing a particularly heavy and bulky knapsack.

But I’m also worried about writing too many negative posts in quick succession, so I have been trying to pick my next read with care. After years of treating him coldy I’ve started flirting again with Will Self. After buying my copy of The Book of Dave I sat down to read it but I’ve realised that it’s still too soon to get back together with him; the experience wasn’t the pleasure it might have been. I closed the paperback and put it aside for another day, like ruefully putting the cork back into an ill-chosen bottle of wine.

Panic set in. I started J.G.Ballard’s The Drowned World last night. Although it wasn’t quite the sobering Self experience, the important work meeting I had looming the next day spoilt my enjoyment of the book, and then proceeded to spoil life itself until I’d got it out of the way. What to do? A trip to Borders this afternoon saved the day. Following the meeting from hell (a.k.a Stephen against the world – alternative a.k.a Stephen comes out quite well after a potentially confrontational and nasty meeting) I decide to treat myself to a few new books, including Essays in Love by Alain de Botton.

Sitting in the school library as I wait to pick my daughter up from netball I dip in to de Botton and he’s a joy to read. I feel no heavy burden. The wine is nectar. Choosing the right book shouldn’t be so difficult, I shouldn’t ponder on it as much. Do you really want to know? But when the pleasure of reading kicks in there’s nothing like it, so I feel that I need to tell you. And I bought the Duffy album too, which helps to calm the mood. A review of Essays in Love coming soon…

I know that same panic. All of sudden the page doesn’t have the effect you need it to have. Very glad that de Botton did the trick and looking forward to the review!

verbivore    Wednesday March 5, 2008   

And it’s already shaping up very well!

The Book Tower    Wednesday March 5, 2008   

I think any reader would be able to relate to your post. I know I can. My cure, weirdly enough, is to just start another book. I currently have six or seven books going. I have odd reading habits: I’ll get a good start on a book—say, fifty to a hundred pages in one sitting—then I’ll suddenly scale back, reading maybe one chapter a night. That’s what I’m doing with “Against the Day.” Yes, at this rate, it’s going to take me till the end of the year to finish the book, but the same thing happened with “Don Quixote.” I started it last spring and didn’t actually finish it till late last year.

Another thing that works for me, to get out of that slump, is to just look at pictures of books. I’m not kidding. Find a nice, thick book full of author and book pictures and just flip through it. Trust me, it’ll get you reading in no time.

But you seem to have kicked the slump. Maybe my advice will work in the future. We all know this won’t be the last time you feel like this! It’s just one of those things every reader goes through.

Brandon    Wednesday March 5, 2008   

I’m weirdly disciplined in that I only read at the most two books at one time. Maybe that’s part of the problem. And like you with Against the Day, I’ve been reading Ulysses since last June.

The Book Tower    Thursday March 6, 2008   

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