On Reading and Taking Breaks

cartoon me

I’m currently reading David Foster Wallace’s comically weighty novel “Infinite Jest’. Since the only thing more sanctimonious than a 25-year-old white guy reading Infinite Jest is a 25-year-old white guy writing/blogging about reading Infinite Jest, I’m going to divert this into an examination of my process of reading, post-haste (which only seems to be anything other than a narcissistic and intellectually navel-gazing activity by virtue of the other alternative, I think).

I take breaks when reading books. Often. Especially when it’s a challenging read. I put down Kundera’s massive essay ‘Testaments Betrayed’ for nearly three years (when that happens, one will absolutely be doing some re-reading -not necessarily recommended, but hey, it has worked for me, so…) Perhaps a more productive example would be my reading of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Crossing’. McCarthy has a very singular voice, and he employs dense, lyrical prose that reads very slowly. At just under 500 pages, my reading of The Crossing was well-served by my short detour into some shorter and easier-to-digest reads, like Marc Maron’s funny and quick ‘Attempting Normal’. It allowed me to come back to McCarthy a week or so later with new energy and a fresh hunger.

This may be a result of my nascent and moldable brain watching too many YouTube videos in 2008, or it may be my moderate dyslexia setting some hard limits on how much of a certain kind of input is capable of being processed at full capacity. I don’t know. I do know that I have the best retention and the most original thoughts about a piece of work when I’ve reading 4-8 different things all at once, juggling fiction with nonfiction, highbrow and low culture, with some lit mags and a bit of genre thrown in. This seems reasonable to me.

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2 comments

  1. I too have come to realise I can juggle a few different types of reading material… from a harder to digest piece of non-fiction (which I had preferred) to some easier to read fiction (which I had been reluctant to read), to a magazine… it’s when I come to combine some topics together and write about them that I still struggle though – but it’s a fun challenge for me. 4-8 things at once… I don’t think I could manage that!

    Breaks too are important, I agree. I find that they are hard to define of specify though, rather, I prefer to let me accept a break when I feel like it rather than trying to force myself through another chapter to make up the time… the time to absorb the content (in to the subconscious) I think is important to really appreciate something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When reading further starts to seem like a chore, or something one dreads… that’s when it’s time for a break (and it’s also when one isn’t absorbing the information).

      Like

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