Sunday, June 03, 2007

Today I am Reading a Book

I thought I'd reignite an old infatuation. Thanks, in small part, to the advice of a pal and thanks, in large part, to the buzzy suspicion that I've been getting awfully thick and lazy in recent years, I'm reading a book.
It is not as if I have never done this before. I do read books on occasion.
Occasionally.
These days, I seem to prefer the internet, the advice of allies and magazines to the slow torture of entire books. Rather than immerse myself utterly in a boiler of hot prose, I prefer the cool instant fix. In this Cheat Note epoch, I reason, why should I bother? Because I should.
It wasn’t always like this.
Once, I read many books. I read them in a concentrated teenaged era of hope and fearlessness. Reading, as any active reader will attest, actually requires a great deal of bravery and commitment. As an adolescent, I had both these qualities. When these fused with naiveté, there was no stopping me.
I had no idea who or what I was reading. I was just eager to dive into it all. And I didn’t care.
I read Marx and Sartre and Graham Greene and Angela Carter and Kerouac and Flaubert. I read Mann and Kristeva and Derrida and Patrick White and, shock, even poetry. (Although, I think, I've always had some aversion to poetry. Due, I think, to a fairly practical mind and a fear of sentiment and unnecessary weeping.)
By the time I was 20, I read more, I feel certain, than I will read for the remainder of my wobbly days. One reads orgiastically at that age. One reads with genuine lust.
When I think about the dousing of this pale fire, I am reminded of a conversation with a long ago record company executive who (irrelevant to the narrative but funny nonetheless) would often attest to his will have me walk on him in bespoke stilettos while he masturbated. Ah, rock’n’roll memories. Ah, youth.
Of fading desire, he would say, “Put a dollar into a piggy bank for every time you fuck in the first year of marriage. Then throughout your marriage, take a dollar out for every time you fuck thereafter. You will always have money.”
Do excuse my coarse language. I’ve found that this maxim is neither funny nor compelling if I erase the rude words. In any case, you know what he meant. And, in all likelihood (unless you’re medicated or a liar) you’ll agree with the sentiment.
So it is, for me at least, with reading. I'll never match my youthful literary zeal. When the Honeymoon was over and the first flush of attraction had soured, I guess I suspected that Reading would always there for me when I fancied a bit. Reading was always within easy reach. I never approached it again with the energy that it demanded.
Once, I was so intimate with my literary heroes and heroines. I was, I think, actually in love with Nietzsche. I loved him. It was erotic and it was intense and I will never know a love like that again.
You might think I’m name dropping. And, clang, yes I am. But these men and women ignited my youthful libido. And it pleases me to mention them again.
So, I am reading a book. And now, I labour and I sit with a dictionary and a Dictionary of Philosophy and even in the moments of fluttery crypto-cleverness, I know I'll never explode in the way I once did. But, slow familiarity is also good. Strange, fast pleasure is the province of the young.
I am no longer young.
But, today I am reading a book.

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