I have always been a devourer of books. My earliest memories are punctuated with books ever by my side, seeking any opportunity to dive back in and swallow the stories whole. So many tales have swum about in my mind and soul, taking root, becoming part of me, that I can no longer remember most of them as individuals with lives and plots of their own.
But recently, I haven’t had the time to devote to reading that I have in the past. Do I miss my old world-devouring method of reading? No, because I am living books and ideas these days. My life has become what I call “creative chaos.” And I love all that I am doing, even though there really aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve all that I ache to do.
Even so, I’ve been working on a number of projects to which I’m more than happy to devote my full attention. For instance, this past month I’ve been:
- Creating the first draft of a new novel Woof! a love story (which is set in the same village of Black Bear, Pennsylvania as my novel Jo Joe and Daniel’s novella Honor).
- Editing a delightful new short story Annabelle by Nancy Christie, which will be published by Pixel Hall Press’s new PHP Shorts eBook imprint in September
- Doing the initial edit of Daniel’s new novel Adam V, before it goes off to his editor.
- Preparing for another American Hands exhibit, which I’ll be installing the first week in September.
- Responding to the editor’s suggestions for my upcoming novel The Winter Boy, which will be published (appropriately) this coming winter.
- Launching Daniel’s and my new Arts & Letters Show, which are online chats, interviews, roundtables and seminars on art, literature, culture and other subjects that fascinate us. (They are also saved as YouTube videos.)
- Doing various book readings, meetings with book clubs (in person and via videoconferencing), seminars, lectures and other personal appearances related to my novel Jo Joe and my American Hands project.
- Fitting in more American Hands photo shoots when possible.
Not surprisingly, I’ve had to limit my personal reading times. At the kitchen or porch table, when I’m eating alone. In the bathroom, especially during long tub soaks (unless I’m working out a particularly thorny or compelling part of Woof!). And in bed before I go to sleep (unless I want to put the scene in Woof! that I’m working on into my mind, so I can use my dreams to figure out the next transition or dialog).
What I find curious is that I’m not only taking much longer to finish a book, because I don’t have the time to give to it, but that I’ve also slowed down my reading pace. I linger on the words, the imagery, the personalities, getting to know them and their lives. Like a really good conversation with a dear friend, they stay with me, in the background of my life, even when they aren’t right there, in my face, so to say.
As is quite common for me, I’m currently immersed in two books. (Well, three, if you include the Torah, which I am studying out of curiousity and for background research for another Black Bear, Pennsylvania novel The Minyan that I plan to write in about three years.)
Redwood and Wildfire is a wondrous novel by Andrea Hairston, to which I love giving myself fully, almost as a secret pleasure that I don’t want to end. I’ve been reading it for over a month at this point, and I will miss Redwood and Aidan when I finally turn the last page on their story.
However, Redwood and Wildfire is a paperback, so I don’t read it in bed, because it would require leaving the lights on, just when Daniel and I want (or need) to get to sleep. So, on my backlit 7″ Samsung tablet, I’m reading Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson. I didn’t start Ramona for the pleasure of it. (The protagonist of Woof! is a professor of literature, whose most recent book compared Ramona with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. So, it started out as necessary research.) I honestly believe that if I had read Ramona in my old manner, flying through the pages, anxious to get to the next and then the next, I might have dismissed this classic American novel for its stilted language. But because I read only a few pages each night, and the book has been lingering within me, I have begun to savor the tale, to appreciate the depths of the character development, the insights into the otherworldly culture of Mexican California.
As life wizzes by, filled with what should be 28-hour days if we want to get everything done within our lifetimes, it’s become one of my great momentary pleasures to slow down for a few minutes with a good book. I am no longer a devourer of books, but a partner with them, sharing the quiet times, and letting them take root, so I can remember each one as an individual gem.