The History of Reading

I’m reading as I write. At least a few pages every day. Incredible books that inspire or discourage, but ultimately fill me with the desire to be one of them.¬† A person who is able to write a book. I’ve never been a fan of music the way I’m a fan of literature. Maybe, because I’ve always been able to do it, it feels less impressive to me. I like music. I can see through to it’s seams, though. Most people make music that means nothing, and the world can’t tell the difference. Maybe I’ve become too disillusioned where music is concerned.

Books are still magical.

I’ve read everything that’s been translated of Per Petterson’s books. In The Wake, and To Siberia, Stealing Horses, and Curse the River of Time. I love his writing so much, especially the Anne Born translations. The same people populate his books even when they have different names. He is constantly investigating the lives of the people closest to him. Their histories, his conflicted feelings about them. I love his observations, his winter landscapes, his sadness. I love the way he writes in the first person. You feel as if you know him, and that every word is painfully¬† true.

Today I finished The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I think it’s one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Utterly masterful, with heartbreaking characters, and a mystery that unfolds in such a satisfying way. I was in tears at the end. I may need to attend her reading at the 92nd Street Y this month. I want to hear her talk about how she does it. Although, I know there’s no way she could explain it that would help me to do it as well.

I’m more a reader than a writer. Or maybe all writers are readers who have been slayed by incredible books. My story limps along. Will I ever get to the end? Will I ever think it worthy of being read by anyone? I wake up thinking about what a character would say instead of what i’ve had him say first. I’m a relentless re-writer as I go, trying to rid my story of every overly precious adjective. Writing is hard. But the challenge of it is exciting and when I’m able to assemble a few paragraphs that feel as if they might have happened, I feel very satisfied. So I will go on writing and reading.

Next up is Great House, the new one by Nicole Krauss. I’ll reward myself with a few pages of it tonight, before I go to sleep.

p.s. I don’t know why I need to turn my back on something in order to embrace something else. Stupid and not true about music. I love it dearly. I’ve often said it has saved my life.

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2 Responses to The History of Reading

  1. jbryan says:

    Two of the greatest gifts of being alive are reading and music….music and reading. If I had to pick one over the other it would be like choosing between two children but ultimately it would be music for me, hands down. But reading is music’s siamese twin for what it does to the mind and soul. Reading offers symmetry to the chaos of real life.

    That said I have missed your reading recommendations. I always hoped you wouls start a reading blog one day. I loved the reference to your reading in your journal of old. You turned me on to some great novels……and Alice Munro! Thank you for her!

    I just so happen to be reading Great House. Stunning.

  2. Joebob says:

    Funny thing about that. With most recording artists who I like I am moved by the music first and only later appreciate the lyrics. But with your work, the words have been of more importance, and so I already think of you in terms of your words first and your beautiful musical talents, second, though in truth in the end they are hard to separate.
    I have no doubt the gift you have for writing what is in your heart in a way that allows others to share it will be much in evidence when we are eventually treated to the fruits of your current labor. Keep it going…..
    -jbs

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