This is a bad idea, starting two books at night. Like learning two languages at the same time (and then falling asleep). I remember I always got Swedish and Spanish confused when I was learning them. Now, if I try to recall verbs from either language, I just remember neutrally accented nonsensical words. Larare, cantare.
Well, last night I started one French book, at the moment about a girl sleeping with a boss to get a job (Truismes by Marie Darieussecq) and another about a boy or man driving out of Ontario and looking at landscapes (No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod). I read ten pages of each book right before bedtime. That was what I remember.
I teach a Study Skills workshop where I try to teach high school students how to try to study better. I preface each workshop by a sharing circle: what do each of us need to work on? I tell everyone I can’t remember textbook chapters after I read them; classes after I attend them; movies after I watch them. Most sad is that I can’t remember books after I read them. Only sad because I want to write books, books others will remember.
So anyways I started two books last night, because that’s what I do, I read even though I don’t remember. I read to read books. For example, I was without something to do for five minutes tonight (I was warned ahead of time I would need to wait five minutes). Like the predictable patient of some psychology experiment, I began to panic. Five minutes? My life was laid out for me, and I hadn’t come prepared. There were two books I had already started at home, on my night table. There was a pile of work I could be doing on my bed, a short story to edit on my computer. Oh yeah, I am writing a novel I don’t have time for and I have to sit here for five minutes?
This is ridiculous, this intensity I have for reading. I know we think kids are obsessed with texting and video games and we think that’s bad, but what about when kids just read all the time? Was that so much more acceptable? I don’t think it’s okay that in my memory I was reading The Witches at my sister’s high school commencement ceremony. Granted, I was in fifth grade, but I don’t remember her walking across the stage (sorry, I don’t remember a lot of things) and I do remember that moment in Roald Dahl‘s The Witches where the main character (maybe it was a mouse?) was looking in at a conference where all these women (witches) took off their wigs.
I don’t know if that showed I had a good memory of books or not.
My point being reading and why we do it. Writing and why we do it. At a certain point I won’t remember whether I read a book at all, let alone what it was about. So why do I waste time doing it feverishly? Why do I try and start two books at once? Why do I panic if I’m not reading?
And more than that – why am I trying to write another book whose plot no one will really be able to explain? I know you probably won’t even want to read it. Most people I meet are passionate about lived experiences, not books.
I hope the drive I have to understand the world through literature comes from something good inside of me, like a desire to better understand others and to spread empathy and change the world. Really, I think it’s simple. I read somewhere (probably a book) that you shouldn’t write to please everyone. You should write to please people who love books, because those are the people who are going to read them. People like me, who write blog posts about how they started reading two books at once last night.