Day 300. Goodreads

Sharan called me tonight to tell a happy library story about the children’s librarian at her public library.  Librarians are all goddesses and gods (this means you Katherine Nuss and Carol Sinwell).

Sharan is in the throes of writing a children’s book, so she’s researching other children’s books, and on this trip, I gathered, looking at some old favorites.  She mentioned Charlotte’s Web, which took me on a (another) brief mental holiday.  I traveled clear back to 1970, to a winter Sunday when I was in first grade.  That day, I checked myself into the pink sheets of my bed for the whole day and read Charlotte’s Web cover to cover.  I picked it up after breakfast for what I thought would be a chapter or two, and for the very first time, for a long book like that at least, I couldn’t put it down.  I had a vice grip on it that would not release until I was utterly devastated the end when [GREAT BIG SPOILER ALERT] Charlotte dies at the fair.  And even then, I still loved the book and would have begun reading all over again at the first page, had it not been time for dinner.  We all know I have never been one to miss a meal.  Besides, my next book, The Trumpet of the Swan, awaited me, so I knew it was time to move on.

Since I was four I have been a good, fast reader.  Books, as they say, are my friends.  Or they have been, until I got sick.  As those aneurysms started growing—long before I knew they were there—it seems like someone poured rubber cement in my brain.  So the thoughts are a bit sticky.  The reading device has become slow, glue-y.  My memory?  Oh just forget it.  I don’t mean to be funny.  When the aneurysm ruptured and I had all the anesthesia—twice—well, the rubber cement turned into, I don’t know what, tar, maybe.  Thought processes drag along like mud.

However, because they are plodingly slow, I still have something called metacognition.  I can still think about what I am thinking about and learning. In other words, I still have my smarts about me. Metacognition might be compared to a ladder that I can use to climb my way out of the goop, even if it is slowly.  That’s the plan, anyway.

That means I can think about how little I can read—but, I have found, I am starting to be able to think more about what I have read.  Metacognition is helping me build ladders up and around my thinking and memory problems.  Slowly.  Frustratingly.  But it is working.

So many times I drew a picture for a student with learning disabilities and said, “This is your brain, and this is another learner’s brain.  In his brain, learning makes a straight line from point A here to point B here. In your brain, if we start at point A, there may be too many mountains for the information to get to point B via a straight line, so your brain has to find different pathways.  It will take longer for you to make the trip, maybe for a few months, maybe forever.  But you CAN do it.

Hmmm….it never occurred to me that I might offer this pep talk to myself.  In fact, let me register that I hate giving this pep talk to myself…except that it works.

Thus, I just signed up on to read 20 books in 2012.  That is laughable.  Hah!  Scott, in particular, will cackle at that number, and if it were only a lifetime ago, Carlos and I would have cackled evilly at the puny number that poor Heidi was reading, particularly since I have nothing but free time!  But there it is…and I feel terribly stressed at the commitment:  Holy shit.  That’s almost two books a month.  And I’ve also committed myself to three journal entries a week, two blog entries, and one art project, as well as one finished writing project a month.  This is a LOT, people.  Well, I guess you never know what you can do until you try, and even if you fail miserably, do it with style (I don’t mean this.  I hate failure.  I will die trying).

Today I did read probably around twenty pages of prose from the book Liz gave me for Christmas, The Cookbook Collector, (only one of about ten fantastic gifts, including, incidentally, a Cary Grant film box set, which I have yet to watch…any takers for a film fest?). But twenty pages is the far reaches of my ability to read at one sitting.

There are not words to describe the loss I feel about my ability to jam through a novel in two days, or even read a magazine in a single sitting–kind of like a death in the family.  At the same time, how great is this?  I’m on a reading marathon.

How much are you reading?  What are you reading?

8 thoughts on “Day 300. Goodreads

  1. At the risk of contradict your entire approach to reading, I’d say the big question is not what you are reading, but, of all the things you are (may be) reading, which ones are the ones that actually get read. Right now, for me, there are several books in progress (which means nothing because I always read several books at once), including the massive first volume of Twain’s autobiography. I’ve finished Metamaus (Spiegelman’s) and because of that I’m getting into a massive list of Holocaust & genocides related literature (Hilberg’s three volume Destruction of European Jews, a couple of books by Levi – including his last, The Drown and The Saved and others on the Armenian genocide). But I am also reading Alice in Sunderland, because it is a graphic novel and I am a total sucker for comics. If I had a life closer to what I fantasize, I would spend it reading comics.

    Lastly, reading, for me, has become a survival strategy given my line of work. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching at college, but the college administration makes it hard to keep our minds curious and engaged. It would seem that to the administration, students are sausages and we are the stuffing that needs to be injected into their brains. Hence, reading becomes a defense mechanism.

    Good morning.

    • Oh, it’s always good times, happy times with you. Seriously, though, I have to put Metamaus on my list. That sounds good. Hmm…Alice in Sunderland. Do you like it?

      And as for the sausage-stuffing model. Something about it resonates….perhaps it is all those times I heard you telling the students either to stuff it or get stuffed…

      Good evening.

  2. Haha! Totally replacing Freire’s banking model of education with Carlos’s sausage-stuffing!

    And I’m five months behind on New Yorkers — my go-to bus and Metro companion — and have a copy of Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker on the dining table, waiting for me to read it out loud to myself again. Other than that, candidate writing samples, student work, new manuscript for our books series at Lexington: you know the routine.

    I love your to-do list, and wish it were mine!

    • Hilarious!

      Oh, New Yorkers give me a cold sweat. I have started and stopped subscribing some thirty times since the early 1980s because I always began with such great intensions, but then they just stacked up.
      I have to read the whole thing, can never just pick and choose, because you never know where the gem may be hidden in the NYer. As far as I can tell, I’m 23 years behind now. I know nothing of the current popular culture.
      I used to love the candidate writing samples and CVs, though. Somehow, I could plow through those like nobody’s business. There’s a power lesson in that, though….


  3. Mit and I have been chomping at the bit to read Charlotte’s Web with the kiddo, but have been holding off because of Charlotte’s death. Even Stuart riding away for good on his motorcycle in Stuart Little was hard. For us, not for her. Kids are pretty resilient, no?

    I’ve been reading Dickens, with breaks for Simenon’s Maigret mysteries, and random shoulda-read-em-in-college novels. The Maigrets are easy / fun, existentialist-lite, just enough content to keep ’em interesting. Toward the end of last year, I stumbled on a longish essay by Virginia Woolf on illness and literature. The general thesis is that literature has always inexplicably been about the ephemeral movings-around of the mind, even though we all walk around in these solid bodies all our lives. Woolf, who you probably know suffered from debilitating headaches, argues that illness renders this strange paradox blatant. Argues is probably too strong a word. It’s a rambling discourse more than a tight argument. Anyway, I wonder if you would find it interesting. Happy to share.

    • Wow. Dickens. I am impressed. I know I have read some of the obvious ones (Great Expectations, etc.), but I haven’t really delved into Dickens, particularly as an adult. I always find myself stultified with that 19th century prose (those Sentences that require a knife and fork). But Dickens is never quite as difficult as I expect. I should never lump him in with the Melvilles. I don’t know a bit about Maigret, though. God, there’s so much to read!

      Oh, and yes, I have read excerpts of “On Being Ill,” but not all of it. I laughed out loud about what you said about Woolf’s “arguments”! So true! Would love to see it, though! Thanks!

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