Once upon a time, I was an English major. My homework was to read a ton of novels and write papers on them. At the same time as being an English major, I was doing extracurricular activities that involved theatre and drinking. Not necessarily at the same time, but also not unheard of behavior either.
As such, I became very good at ‘reading’ novels without reading them. I would get the gist of the story; I would skim for details; I would look for connections with other pieces of literature or anything else that I could potentially use for papers, tests and the like.
But did I read the novels? Not in the same way that I used to read, or the way that I read now, where I feel like I’m really ingesting the book. I’m just now, nearly eight years out of college, realizing the difference.
Here’s an example. We have a guy at work who really likes to read. Really smart guy, a writer himself, trying to get published, and he was talking books with my next-door cube neighbor when he mentioned a title he was reading – Pop. 1280. Something about that seemed vaguely familiar, so I ran to my Internets to look it up. Lo and behold, I had read it – rather, I’d ‘read’ it – for a class my Junior year. So I chimed in.
‘What did you think?' he asked. 'I’m only about half way in. Didn’t you love it?’
Frankly, I had no recollection of it one way or the other. Just that I had read it once, that I was required to read it, and that it was still sitting on my bookshelf.
That sensation unnerved me. So, about a month ago, I picked the book back up and started reading it again. It’s excellent. It’s hilarious and psychotic and entertaining and chilling at the same time. It’s the kind of book that I would have loved to read my Junior year had I not been so caught up ‘reading’ for my Junior year. It’s by Jim Thompson and was published in 1964. It’s like crime fiction meets farce. If you’re looking for something to read, I can recommend it with full knowledge that it is indeed a perfectly enjoyable read.
Anyway, I’m not sure what lesson to take from that, other than maybe just to enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it.