It’s hard to believe now, but I went about a decade without reading. A decade!!! I read, obviously. I didn’t merely wander around ignoring various signage and guessing the scores of major sporting events. I read constantly, as we all do. I did, however, inexplicably and unforgivably walk away from fiction for a whole decade. I loved fiction as a boy and as a young adult. I read constantly. I consumed books, devoured them, whatever very you like I used to take the information from books and put it in my brain. I distinctly remember my English teacher in sophomore year of high school (we used those terms in that particular high school) mocking me in front of all my peers in the recreation of a conversation with my father:
Father: But he reads books all the time!
Mr. Antonil: He’s not reading the books I give him!
I was, in fact, not reading the books that Mr. Antonil had given me. I was far more interested in the work of Robert Heinlein at the time. My love of Heinlein had come from a failed experiment with Kurt Vonnegut (note: eleven year old boys should probably not try and read Galapagos) after a prolonged journey towards science fiction from a solid base in fantasy. I had loved and read through Tolkien as had every author published in the 1970s, or so it seemed to me. Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever astonished and bewildered me as a young reader, while David Eddings’ The Belgariad had more humble ambition but admirable execution. I read and I read and I read. Nothing stopped me.
That is until I graduated from university and decided that I wasn’t going to read books that weren’t of a certain standard. It was a horrifically snobbish attitude to take and one relatively forgivable of a snotty postgraduate at the age of 23, but the position survived for years. It was only with the relatively spontaneous decision to read Margaret Atwood in my early 30s that I broke out of the rut. The freedom that came afterwards was energizing and continues to be so. Now I look back and wonder how I managed to break from reading for so long.
Still, it can be hard to find the time. I have a job that requires reading, and although that should be Heaven itself poured from a flute down into ice cream with crusted fragments of peanuts and M&Ms and all kinds of delights, it isn’t. It just doesn’t work that way. Work is work. This is exacerbated by the fact that my “work” reading displaces my recreational reading. I have a shameless and not even remotely exceptional weakness for dystopian fiction, and I’d much rather be reading that than fascinating and well put together books on postwar Japanese culture. Human nature is a wonderful thing in all its dimensions.
In any case, this blog may or may not be cursed with more writing about reading, but what’s the harm, I say? In truth, the greatest thing about reviving one’s habit in reading is that it compels one to participate in the related habit of writing.