Thursday, June 23, 2016

How do you read?


Janice Weber

I've just finished reading Swing Set, a somewhat unusual sex novel by Janice Weber that I read because I am trying to read all of Janice Weber's books.

And that prompts me to wonder if other people's reading habits resemble mine.

I do read quite a few books that are one-offs — I will read the book, and quite likely enjoy it, but I don't feel a need to read other works by the same author.

But once I discover an author I really like, it is my tendency to read as much of their work as possible. So, since high school, I have read a Vladimir Nabokov novel once every couple of years or so. (I still have a few left). I've read almost all of the fiction of science fiction writer Jack Vance, and a lot of Philip Jose Farmer. I've read every Tom Perrotta and Jane Austen book I can find. I am trying to read all of Neal Stephenson and Iain Banks, but still have a way to go (I discovered Banks relatively late, and also didn't follow Stephenson at first.) I like Richard Powers a lot, and Janice Weber. And of course, I have explored Robert Anton Wilson's work and have been reading Robert Shea's solo novels.

What are your reading habits?

By the way, I know the name "Janice Weber" is less familiar than some of the author names above, but she is both a classical pianist and a novelist, and she's very interesting; you can read my interview with her.




5 comments:

michael said...

I'm pretty sure I read too much, and it has made me feel stupider, but at the same time I'm obviously addicted to reading, so I will probably continue to get stupider. It's some dire, bleak stuff, but I'm afraid it's incurable. I should be getting my affairs in order, and I will, but right now I have to finish a book on film noir, an obscure book on Korzybski, a novel by Murakami, some stuff on a particularly odd corner of quantum mechanics, a new library book on gut bacteria, a re-reading of a book on esotericism in the history of philosophy, some Pound, a book about Ibn Khaldun, and Talbot's book on the history of the CIA. Among others. A bunch of articles on an array of topics culled...

It's not a pretty sight. And it's also not the kind of handicap that earns donations from passersby; Can you imagine someone sitting on a busy corner with a little sign:

Please Donate
Reading Has Made Me A Moron
Even Though I'm An Agnostic For Complex Epistemological Reasons: "God" Bless!

Mein Gott! I suspect even "affluenza" gets more sympathy than my affliction...

1. Like you, I find some authors so compelling I research their oeuvre and try to read everything from them; also like you, I read a LOT of what turn out to be "one-offs": one book from a certain author. I may think, "This person is wonderful! I should try to read all of their stuff!," but then I have those others I'm already trying to read all of.

2. The vastly compelling authors (to me) will be writing about ideas and other earlier writers and that sends me off on those tangents. EX: RAW led me back to Vico (died in 1744), who led me to Lucretius.

3. It's the IDEAS that really get me: they combine and expand and differentiate and change over time (thrilling!), then combine more and expand and compete with each other, etc, etc, etc...and I try to keep up with all that. It's quite a lot. It's way too much. Only a moron...but now I repeat myself. I truly think this is where I've made myself unemployable, and am just _this far_ from soliciting "donations" on a street corner.

4. It seems my fundamental (I'm well aware of the etymology) bend is towards a generalist's stance toward knowledge, which, it's easy to see, in the early 21st century, is a Fool's Errand. Even Wilson has said it's "impossible" now (due in large part to what he called the Jumping Jesus Phenomenon, where information accelerates logarithmically in history); truly this is a world that rewards specialists. I've tried and it's just not in me. I suffer. Pity me?

5. I'll make this the last on my list, and "meta": I was always weird, always did well in school without really trying, and as I got to be 14 or so, really appalled by the sort of Lord of the Flies world of school. This persisted. I knew there was supposed to be some time when we all "grew up" and were civil, fun-loving, generous, kind adults, but by the time that was supposed to happen, I had privately nurtured what I call my Gumby Skills (Gumby, recall, "could walk into any book") to such a degree that I became some sort of late 20th c. Lotus Eater: the retreat into books (each one constitutes a new world) was sufficiently comforting that it ruined me.

O! The irony!

Oz Fritz said...

I don't have a set pattern of reading that I'm aware of. I read 1000 Plateaus by Deleuze and Guatarri about 18 months ago then spent about a year mostly reading books by and about Deleuze (with some by Guatarri) including some of the sources he was inspired by: Lewis Carroll, Artaud, Nietzsche, Klossowski etc. I take breaks from that by reading music biographies. Recently read Patti Boyd's book about being married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Not very profound yet an interesting diversion. Bebe Beull's book had an interesting anecdote pertaining to Jimmy Page's magick practice. Also occasionally read occult books. Slowly working my way through The History of Magic by Levi and The Fairie Queene by Spenser.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Hey Tom,

I have to be careful about my reading habits or I'll end up starting too many books at once and that leads to a lot of quarter or half finished books. For the past couples years I've found sticking to one non-fiction and one fiction book at the same time helps me focus enough to finish the books and keep my mind occupied. (I'll also read "holy" texts or poetry while I have the other two books going.) I can get bored when I'm reading the same thing for too long. Unless it is something that I love and want to take my time with; the last time I reread "Illuminatus!" and "Cosmic Trigger" I ended up taking a lot longer to savor the books than any time beforehand.

For nonfiction I read mostly occult books, but I have a pretty wide definition of that term. So books on the history of ideas, manuals, philosophy, psychology texts etc.

Fiction I try to keep a good mixture of classics, science fiction, and crime going.

I don't know how I feel about this, certainly not proud, but reading is my one true love and I would easily give up anything else in my life before my books.

michael said...

@Rarebit Fiend: Do you mean you consider books on the history of ideas as "occult"? If so, how did you make this categorization? This is an interesting idea to me.

Eric Wagner said...

I read in a variety of ways. I read a lot for school, for various classes I teach. I read a lot of Joyce and Wilson related material in hopes that I will finish my book on them next year. I tend to read a lot of books recommended by various mentors, some of whom I've met, and some of whom I haven't. In the summer after seventh grade I started to read a lot of books mentioned by Philip Jose Farmer. For years I read books recommended by Spider Robinson. For thirty plus years I explored books recommended by Robert Anton Wilson, and I've also read a lot of books recommended by Ezra Pound and Rafi Zabor.

A few years ago I decided to read a number of poetry books concurrently, taking the current year and subtracting 2000, so that right now I find myself reading sixteen books of poetry.