When you read, you begin with… A, B, C.

February 21, 2010

The simple act of picking up a book and reading again feels as rudimentary and simultaneously dramatic as learning one’s letters for the first time.

For me, reading is an exercise that has always been a ceremony. It’s an activity around which time dances and bends itself, rather than a walking-stick for one to lean one’s free time upon. It’s not a side-dish, but a demanding, chewy, robust main, to be relished and contemplated upon with every new flavour and nuance.

Perhaps as result, I’ve read very little.

Thus, finding myself unemployed and in a sort of peaceful lull, I turn to my old, basic stash of the printed word that still holds echoes of unfinished forays. Indeed, even the book that I would call, if not my favourite, then the one that stands out most violently in a linear graph of my reading, A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, has never to this day been completed by me to the very last page. It’s the same neurotic perfection that requires me to read one volume in a homogeneous, holistic flow of sessions, that has never let me simply pick up where i last left off.

Sacrilegious, some may say, to name as favourite, or to claim any ownership or familiarity with a book that I’ve never actually finished. But in fact it’s in the very spirit of my tumultuous experience with Joyce’s work that I start this blog. It introduced me to stream-of-consciousness, and gave me tools to analyze, appreciate and indulge endlessly in the sheer visceral quality of his prose. The academic setting, with its invitation to share these observations, made it a very productive era. I felt privileged to be under the tutelage of one who appreciated ambiance over mere plot. I was given license to expound over why Joyce was more than justified in conveying the 15 different layers of mood in one snap-shot of life, one moment, one sight, one dripping tap. It was as if someone siphoned off all the atmosphere, the eerie, intangible mood with a straw, and converted it into words.

So, in the hope of exciting again such a period of creativity, mental invigoration, and quite simply, inspiration, I have begun to channel this inwardly contemplative time to rebuild a brutally disconnected relationship with literature.

**

A keen, self-critical and perhaps all-in-all too self-conscious sweep of my limited collection has shunned me to the end of the chronological graph – back, in fact, to one of the first books on the reading list of one of my first classes in college.

From the days of Feminist Fiction, 101 (or thereabouts), I dust off and savour the mellow marzipanish smell of Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening.

The dry, almost banal realism is probably what kept me away from completing this novel a few months ago. But since my aim is to tackle the cobwebs in the furthest corners of my mind, I wanted to scratch out the crustiest bits first. Therefore, I take the challenge of facing the spartan descriptiveness of Chopin’s prose head-on.

Already I am finding that the powerful force of recognizing the human condition wafts through even the most strictly regimented renditions of reality.

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