(though not necessarily in that order)

(though not necessarily in that order)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Reading books

Reading books in public.

For me, reading books is a rare occasion. My dyslexic tendencies lead to jumpy words and a need for far more effort than I am usually willing to expend. So I tend not to read unless I have to. If I'm reading print, it is usually with the aid of a trusty green overlay and magnifying bar. Or printed onto green paper, if I've got the information in a format which I can do that with.
Other days, reading even with that stuff is nigh on impossible, so I scan in text from academic books and get a clever bit of software to read it to me. In clunky, clumsy, poorly inflected computer voice. Which is better than nothing, but not exactly brilliant.

On train journeys to London, when I have over an hour of sitting, I like to read. Makes it feel less like wasted time. And I'm not a fan of wasting time (though it often happens). On Monday, I went to London. So I took a text book which I read on the way up and the way back from London, but then I took a fiction book. Now, anyone who knows me knows I don't do fiction. I don't read much, so when I do, it is nearly always academic reading. Which is fine, and hasn't caused me any huge problems because there is so much academic reading which can be done.

I've read three non-academic texts in book format in 50 months. The first was Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. My CPN gave it to me when in hospital in the end part of 2008 as she could see I was running out of things to do. So I read it as she is the sort of person to follow up something with a discussion (which reminds me, I must read that article she sent me again before she next comes).
The second was read about a month ago. The Dead Beat by Cody James. A brilliant book, which I read to myself. Feels odd saying "I read a book" but it was such a novelty. It makes me sound like I'm some pretentious 5 year old, "Why yes, when I was reading Jane Auuuusten last night..." (I know kids like that. *shudder*) but for me reading a book is weird. Exciting and new. Anyway, that was the second book.

The third book was read on Monday. Sitting first at a table in a restaurant on my own, and then in a comfy seat I found in a foyer to a concert hall. It was cold outside, I had decided that 6pm in central London was a bit noisy, so found somewhere warm and quiet to sit. Pulled out the book which I had picked up from my "To read" pile. It was Charcoal by Oli Johns (no guesses needed that I got this and the book before from the same order. Check out Eight Cuts) and gripped me to the point where I didn't have a pre-concert drink as I wanted to finish it. (Which to those who even vaguely know me is somewhat an unusual event)

The thing with reading in public is that it is public. When reading academic texts, you are just seen to be a fairly enthusiastic nerd. Especially if you then take a piece of paper from your bag and start scribbling notes on it. Fairly easily identifiable, especially if it has diagrams and the like. Hiding behind this exterior of the dedicated student/academic person/geek is easy.
However, it is fairly obvious when it is a fiction text that you are reading. For one thing, the books are different shapes. Academic texts tend to be wider, sometimes A4 size. Fiction tends to be thinner in the horizontal plane, less words per line and the like. You read down the left hand page, up to the top of the right hand page, down to the bottom of that page, flick over to the next page and repeat.

I felt, in a way, as if I was being daring sitting there reading. Each time I looked up to give my eyes a few seconds of blurry out-of-focus long distance stuff, people were looking at me. In a "oo, she has stopped reading" way. Not just daring because I never read, but daring because I was allowing others to see me read. At school, in "bring a book" reading sessions I either brought a non-fiction text or bunked off. Because I couldn't read well enough or concentrate in a silent classroom for 45 minutes, so why bother? (Why bother when you could be sitting in a toilet cubicle pathetically weeping instead?)

I really struggle with silence. It amplifies any background thoughts to the point where they are no longer background, but very much foreground thoughts. So sitting in a public place with murmurs of other people, but not much was ideal amount of noise.

Reading books is quite good, I think I've decided. I know this sounds stupid, but to me it is new. It isn't as passive an activity as I had decided it was. I always thought that music, being music, drew you in, held you by the scruff of your neck until the end. Had you captivated from that expectant pause before the first note to the last. Where as books didn't do the same. I'm not sure they ever will in anyway compare, but turns out they can do just what I've described about music.

So yeah, reading. Me? Reading? I hardly believe myself either...

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful piece. I had no idea at all that you had Oli's and Cody's books - and as their publisher you have no idea how much it gives me the warm and fuzzies to read that people like them.

    Ann (@violamaths) is exactly the same with noise - I've always preferred silence but she has to have a certain amount of noise, otherwise (she uses the same phrases you do) the background noise of the thoughts in her head comes to the foreground and she can't think about anything else, but with just enough music, or the TV, she can keep them in the back and concentrate on something else as well.

    Thank you again - and what a beautifully articulated post.