Never Let Me Go
Surely one reason 2009 was such a lousy year is that I spent much of it not reading. Of books, I read Opa Nobody, a respectable first book by Sonya Huber (I have intended to write about it for months); I read Time and Tide, a love song to Nantucket; I read A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens:melodrama::France:guillotine); as part of a reading list K and I began, I read To Kill a Mockingbird and several of Eudora Welty’s collected stories; I might have read Henry VI Pt. 1, but I might also have read it in 2008, and besides, compared to Caleb Crain’s generous reading of the same, my reading it is hardly worth mention. I also read essays for work and sundry magazine articles for entertainment and edification, but all told, the year was slim pickings indeed.
What reasons did I have? My time was certainly busy: an hour-and-a-half a day went to running and walking the dog, an hour or more to TV (though it was often really good TV), no small amount of time to daily chores, and more time than I care to recall to splashing around the Internet’s puddles. Perhaps more important was the uncertainty brought on by layoffs at work and medical problems. Such is the stuff to make a mind unquiet. Taken together, by mid-December I was no better than a nervously tapping a pen.
It was last month that I realized—I remembered—the tautology of distraction: an unquiet mind makes noise. Nervous tapping is its own worst enemy. My mother is an artist, a potter, who has always asserted the necessity of keeping her hands busy. She has never carried knitting needles to union meetings—she only picked up knitting a few years ago—but for years she kept a tatting shuttle at hand. (Recently, the thing closest to hand is an Iphone.) I have her need to keep the hands busy, but perhaps because my efforts serve no constructive purpose, for me, busy hands are not enough. Absorption, such as one gains when reading something good well, is one of the few things that makes the tapping subside. So I set about to pick up a few new books. Novels first: The Gate at the Stairs, Never Let Me Go, Home, and now The Wings of the Dove. Poetry, too. I’m taking them as they come, but I am trying to read with diligence—I don’t want to lose the practice again. Perhaps, like Josh, I will find the reading helps me write, too. I hope so—I could use more of that, too. But for now, I am content to recognize that the reading is good for my peace of mind.