(dude, I’ve already hit ten views for today – I don’t even need to post anything to get regular viewers!)
Having come off reading Dante’s Inferno, Eliot’s Middlemarch and Dante’s Purgatory consecutively since October, the practice of ‘reading’ for me has been an obviously enjoyable one, but a simultaneously stressful one, as I feel compelled to make notes of every individual word choice and comma placement, under the idea that this is ‘intellectual’ literature, that actively seeks to draw conclusions about humanity and our societies and ideals, and so must be appreciated and read in depth as such.
However, out of a combination of a free hour, a desire to avoid Football Manager at all costs (we’ve not won in eight and are 23rd in League Two) and a feeling succinctly summed up and exemplified in this here video from Kristina Horner, I decided to read a book that’s been sitting on my almighty pile of books for seriously five years now: Amanda Downum’s The Drowning City.
I’m seventy pages in and, while the prose is a little unsophisticated, with one too many sentences in which character’s emotions are stated, suggesting we must learn some objective truth about the world of the novel, rather than be free to draw our own conclusions, its one of the most enjoyable things I’ve read in a few years; I’m not making notes on it, constantly comparing it to other texts or circling every other word in pencil.
And this is not to say that The Drowning City is in some way undeserving of the sort of close reading that those other texts are, which suggests there is an elitist class of ‘proper’ literature that we can appreciate and engage with in depth, while the rest is mere shelf-filler in Waterstones (an idea I oppose despite its sadly potential accuracy); I am engaging with the ideas presented in the novel, I’m just not writing them down and paying attention to the placement of commas.
Perhaps this is a better way to read in a general sense; you won’t learn the specific language analysis needed to write an exam essay on it, but your understanding of the novel will be more holistic, as you will have a broader appreciation of the ideas discussed – they will present themselves to you in due course, and you don’t have to go looking for them.
Also, this approach means reading is much more relaxed; there were times where I honestly dreaded my daily reading session, as I didn’t really feel like banging my head against Eliot’s dense prose to generate meaning all the time (just most of the time). Now, I’m desperately trying to finish this post off so I can fit another chapter in before I watch France play Wales tonight.
I’d never really engaged with this mad desire to read before. I guess I’d considered it an intellectual, thought-provoking pursuit, one done in libraries in silence that may be enjoyable as a result, but is primarily intended to educate and discuss ideas; I’m reading The Drowning City purely for fun, and I’m loving it. Perhaps this is why the bookish parts of the Internet are so in love with works like Harry Potter or anything by John Green; the Internet is a place we come to for fun and escapism, and so I suppose we want to read things that make us relaxed and give enjoyment, while teaching life lessons on the side, rather than the ‘school’ approach that inverts these priorities.
Earlier, I tried to read Middlemarch and The Inferno simultaneously (a revelation that shocked my Uni interviewers), and I ended up thinking that one cannot read two texts at once. However, perhaps if we read one text in depth, actively generating meaning ourselves (if anything to create some new insights into these famous works), and another for fun, letting understanding and insight come to us in a more relaxed way, it’s totally possible.
That being said, I think I’m on course to finish The Drowning City before Monday, when I intend to start Paradise Lost. God, I enjoy reading.