Monday, January 11, 2010

In the Blue of My Oblivion

I used to read a lot.

My whole Life Before Writing and Books About Real Stuff was filled with huge epic novels about several generations of a single family (usually in the south somewhere), girl detective series, Gothic novels with or without vampires, edgy short story collections, cheap easy reads for airline travel, you name it.

Then two incidents occurred which resulted in the whole monkey wrench in the reading for entertainment situation I am currently in and determined to get out of. The two incidents are as follows:

1. I started reading non-fiction

2. I started writing.

Non fiction reading seemed more productive, less of a waste of time. It was educational - hell the price paid for these books was a bargain compared to the hourly rate of a therapist or a consultation with an expert in the subject covered by the nonfiction book I was reading at the time.

So for years I became one of the Women Who Ran With the Wolves, A Woman Who Loved too Much, one of the I'm Ok people, from the I'm Ok You're Ok bunch and not too long ago I Ate, Prayed and Loved. Instead of reading myths, I read about the importance of myth, read along while Joseph Campbell interpreted all the subtle meanings of them for me. Instead of doing anything, I just read about how one would do it, fix it or come to terms with it, if one were to ever actually get off the sofa and get dressed.

After I became a cocktail party expert on various subjects (one of the perks of devouring every best selling non fiction title out there,) I slowly moved away from the non fiction books and indulged in some fiction again. You see, despite all the great advice received by self help authors over the years, my personal life at the time was a mess, so I did what I do best - I escaped to fictional worlds where women wore corsets and drank mint juleps. And carried parasols. Oh, the parasols.

When I returned from the war, I decided I should try my hand at writing fiction because the first thing everyone wants to do when they return from an emotional train wreck is vomit all over the page write about it. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and then I realized there were a hell of a lot of non-fiction books on writing, so I proceeded to read every inspirational and instructional writing book published. I was told that my book had to prove it's brilliance by The First Five Pages and so I got to the business of Writing Down the Bones.

During this time, I distracted myself from my own work by reading other people's fiction, but I couldn't. I couldn't enjoy a story while thinking (a) how could this person be published when I was clearly a better and more interesting writer? or (b) this writer is a creative genius leaving me no choice but to put rocks in my pockets and walk into the lake.

And this, my friends, is just one small example of how we are all so busy living Life on Purpose that we can't justify even one activity by admitting we enjoy it. So I won't even try. I will give you all the other reasons that I have been able to come up with (in my daily allotted reasoning time) to read books that do nothing but entertain.

1. Flipping pages is good for the finger joints
2. Older people have to keep their mind sharp by constantly challenging their vocabulary skills. Fiction is particularly good for sharpening conversational skills and keeping up with the latest slang.
3. Reading often relaxes, resulting in lower blood pressure and less insomnia. Fiction is more relaxing than non-fiction because there is no suggestion that you are totally screwed up or that you have spent your whole life making mistakes - no pressure to learn or correct or adjust any behavior because one of the most beautiful things about fiction is that it is not about you at all.
4. Reading can be combined with other activities, such as stationary bike riding, treadmill jogging, etc. and fiction actually makes the exercise time go by faster because, lets face it, it's much more interesting.
5. Reading fiction improves storytelling skills, an invaluable skill for those who have to come up with quick excuses.
6. Successful Fiction authors are like Gods and Goddesses. They live in exotic places and aren't required to promote themselves. They just sit on clouds and write all day and are excused for any and all eccentricities because they are, after all, magical and immortal.

And when you read their works the magic transfers to you and then, you too are magical and immortal, able to win friends and influence people, no longer sweating the small stuff, and finally able to heal your life.

Without doing even one real thing.

UPDATED : Because I forgot to add: I am currently reading The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer - almost 1/2 through and it's excellent so far.

-comic found here

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