Saturday, January 05, 2008

One Reader's New Year's Resolutions

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions mainly because I can't remember ever making one that I followed through with for more than a few days anyway. So why bother? But this list of one "reader's New Year's resolutions" by the American-Statesman's book editor, Jeff Salamon, made me chuckle a bit because of the universality of the man's resolutions. I think that those of us who think of ourselves as readers can easily pick out three or four of Salamon's resolutions for ourselves. I'm willing to bet they are pretty much the concerns of every dedicated reader out there to one degree or another.

1. Read faster...I'm not interested in speed-reading methods that encourage skipping every other word or sentence or paragraph; skimming is to reading as stepping in a puddle is to swimming. I want to read the way I already read, just more quickly.

2. Less genre fiction, more short lit...Like everyone I know, I'm usually worn down enough by my professional, familial and social responsibilities that what little discretionary reading time I have I often give over to something relatively undemanding; mostly, high-grade specimens of genre fiction. But then, occasionally, I'll pick up a short work of "serious" literature — recently, Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" — and gape at how different it feels to give myself over to an author who's more interested in language and character than plot.

3. Don't read in bed... Reading until I fall asleep has only succeeded in training me to fall asleep when I read.

4. Buy fewer books... I'm surely not the only bibliomaniac who spends as much time shopping for books as he does lamenting how many of the books he already owns go unread. Partly, this is because I adore books as objects; a vintage paperback designed by Paul Rand is a thing of value, whatever resides between its covers. And partly it's because my eyes are too big for my eyes, as it were; I'm eternally fooling myself into believing that tomorrow morning I'll wake up and discover a few extra hours in the day that I can devote to reading.

5. Try to remember... You'd think that, being a slow reader, I would retain most of what I read; each word has that much more time to embed itself in my consciousness. But you'd be wrong.
I love the last sentence of Salamon's article because it so perfectly describes what I meant when I named this blog "Book Chase."
The aura of a book I have yet to read, with its promise of rapture, surprise and edification, might be even more powerful than the aura of a book I have read, enjoyed and duly forgotten.
Jeff Salamon is definitely a kindred soul of ours.
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