I’m Not Reading Enough: A Confession

I’m not reading enough.

Early on a Friday evening I’m sat here at home in the room where I mostly write these blog posts, writing happily. Joni Mitchell’s singing over in the corner. I’d call it ‘in the background’ except it isn’t. Joni’s singing good and loud:

‘The guy at the gas pumps he’s got a lot of soul…’

But I’m not reading enough.

It’s not as if I’m not reading, here in the new Sociology and History version of my life. But I’m reading books about them. Plenty of them, but only about them. And I said I wouldn’t.

When I wrote about Les Back’s ‘The Art of Listening’ the other week he said:

Read promiscuously with an open mind’

And what’s more:

Don’t become addicted to the library’

But what have I done?

Since then all my reading’s been out of the library. And some of it’s been great. I’m learning loads about things I barely knew existed.

But I’m not reading enough.

I’m doing something about it as you can see from the photograph just under these words. But it wasn’t me who realised I wasn’t reading enough. It was a friend at university.

She reads some of these things I write and this morning came right out and asked me how the reading was going? And she didn’t mean Sociology and History, she knows about them. No, she meant the other stuff, the novels.

So I had to tell her:

‘I’m not reading enough. Even though I said I would. And even though I wrote about Les Back and what he said about reading promiscuously. Because it’s good for your writing and your inspiration. And because it’s good anyway. Even though.

So I went straight out and bought some novels?

No, I went straight out and phoned someone about some really interesting research I’ll be writing about some other time. Then to a really interesting lecture about one of those things I barely knew existed, the history of emotions.

And then I walked down Brownlow Hill, from the university to a bookshop in town, and bought three of those novels you can see in the pictures. One each, deliberately, by three of my favourite novelists. To be there, one at a time, in my bag for the next few weeks. So that whatever else I’m reading I’ll be spending some of my time, all of the time, reading a top quality novel by Anita Brookner, Helen Dunmore or Margaret Drabble.

Promiscuously.

And the other book, by Elizabeth Gaskell? Well ‘Cranford’ is the next book my friend Kate and I have agreed to write about together, like we did with ‘Look At Me’ before, well before I started at university. Except I’m only up to page 72. Which is pathetic really, especially as Kate’s told me she’s well finished reading her copy and is all ready to get writing. Sorry Kate, I haven’t been reading enough.

‘Is it all books and words or do you really feel it?
Do you really laugh, do you really care,
Do you really smile when you smile?’

Confession over then. So, as Joni’s ‘For The Roses’ finishes playing and the room goes quiet, I’m off to do some reading.

Over the course of a peaceful weekend the whole of the Anita Brookner novel was read in various locations as I walked around. A good deal of other reading and even writing was also done. Particularly on an awkward Quantitive Research essay that had, to say the least, been causing me some difficulty. This also involved a decision about how I will write being taken. But more on that and perhaps quantitive thoughts, if you’re up for them, another time?

Big thanks to Abi for the reading reminder.

And you can read more of my university writing here. Also more about books generally at ‘A Book in Your Bag.’

2 Replies to “I’m Not Reading Enough: A Confession”

  1. I think I have worked out why Joni’s music and lyrics are so powerful. They have a haunting quality seldom if ever found in any other songwriter’s songs. In her case it permeates pretty much her entire oeuvre. I never seem to tire of listening to her work. To me she is almost an equivalent poet to Thomas Hardy in the brilliance and simplicity of her imagery.

    1. Thanks Nick, good to hear from you. I never tire of her either, though I consider myself a ‘late arriver’ having not realised how good she was until ‘Court and Spark.’ But that was over forty years ago, so I’ve been listening for a long time now.
      Your comment has reminded me that there’s a Joni Mitchell documentary on Radio 4 at 8:00. Thought I’d better tell you immediately as that’s less than ten minutes from now.

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