Monday, July 4, 2011

On Reading

Yesterday, I read a book while sitting on my back porch.

This shouldn't be particularly shocking given that I have a PhD in literature and that all of my teaching and research is about texts, if not the old school book. But reader, I tell you, sitting down and starting as well as finishing a book in a single day was a luxury. It also made me feel a little guilty.

I am a voracious reader at heart. When I was in elementary school I read and completed 100 book reports in a year simply because it was enjoyable. I loved reading and then telling someone why I liked--or didn't--what I'd read. My parents took me to the library to get my own card when I was quite young because I read so quickly that buying books felt like a bit of an impossible investment (truth be told my dad cut a deal with himself: he'd buy me the classics but I'd take things like The Babysitters Club out of the library). I read a non-thesis or dissertation related book a week throughout the duration of my graduate work. Heck, I read War and Peace while taking trains across Europe, and when I had accumulated too many things in my knapsack to fit the tome I cut the chapters up and scattered them in bus stops. OK, a bit melodramatic, but you get the point: I love reading.

However, reading is something that seems to get pushed out of my everyday. A few weeks ago I posted about my summer research plan. I've been sticking to it, mostly. Some unforeseen things have popped up (more on those when I can write about them) but all in all I'm on schedule. So why did I feel *so* guilty yesterday as I sat happily in the sun reading a book?

Well, for one thing, even though I advocate and encourage others to take a vacation I am having a hard time doing it myself. Sure, I know it is necessary. Yes, I understand that I'll be better rested and ready to do work, but gosh, the constant shadow of anxiety that hovers over we on the non-tenured track is a heavy, shady, and dogged thing.

I think, too, that for me research is always in service of production these days. This is related to the anxiety/guilt I mentioned a moment ago, certainly, and I wonder if others struggle with this? I find I've been giving myself little time to let my mind wander lately, and so that's my task for myself in the following weeks: read, and read widely. Read for work, read for pleasure, and be ready to be surprised if the books/articles/etc. start to migrate from 'pleasure' to 'work'. Following the lead of one of my favourite scholarly bloggers, I'll end with a partial reading list. There's no rhyme or reason to it (& I would love it if you all would post yours):

Commonwealth (Hardt & Negri)

Cree Narrative Memory (Neal McLeod)

something by Henning Mankell

Emotionally Weird (Kate Atkinson)


Exit Capitalism (Simon During)

2 comments:

  1. Isn't it the most annoying thing, this perpetual guilt-tripping we inflict on ourselves? It's the same for me: Edmonton hasn't had the most felicitous weather in the last, oh, year and a half, and yet, when the sunny and warm weather finally arrived, I felt so guilty for wrenching a couple of hours to read some Zadie Smith in the back yard! I still feel guilty for reading outside--instead of sitting in front of the computer at my desk procrastinating online--but now I've decided that, as a specialist in contemporary culture, staying abreast of contemporary fiction is my professional duty! As is, of course, watching all kinds of stuff on TV. Joking aside, it *is* summer, and, in this part of the world, it's painfully short, so I'm totally on board with enjoying the few moments we get of reading outside, rather than guilt-tripping ourselves to distraction!
    Margrit

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  2. I've just read *Pym*, by Mat Johnson. I'm loosely following Ms. Mentor's summer academic novel reading list on the Chronicle, and this one was REALLY good. Loved it.

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