A return to reading

I've been disinclined to post here lately, largely because I've been overwhelmed by battling a general sense of reluctance - to take care of myself, to take care of business, to do anything at all during this never-ending winter. As I'm clawing my way out of it the past few weeks, my main focus for my limited energy has been on writing. Which is a welcome change of pace for me, and a tremendous relief. It feels as though, for months, I have been stuck, experiencing the most persistent and baffling case of writer's block. (Which, as I understand it, is really more accurately something like writer's fear or writer's reluctance.) And then, thanks to encouragement from my MFA mentor and giving myself permission to write shitty first drafts, there was an opening - which felt like nothing short of a miracle. So progress is being made and when I'm putting all my energy into writing one thing, others - such as this blog - fall by the wayside. I am not complex enough to spread the wealth around, so to speak.

But what I have been able to do, in addition to writing, is read. Something about enrolling in my MFA program has changed the way I approach it, too. I don't think I noticed that I'd stopped reading like a writer, that I'd lost that intense passion for story and characters, that I'd lost that hunger to read more, more, more.

Yet it appears that I did.

I haven't written much about my reasons for enrolling in graduate school and while they are myriad, one is to take myself seriously as a writer. That's something I've struggled with for years. And, somehow, taking myself seriously as a writer means also taking myself seriously as a reader. Full, unbridled permission to read with abandon.

I re-read The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman, startled to discover how much of each seemed new to me. I read George Saunders' Tenth of December and Alice Monroe's Dear Life: Stories, incredibly different collections, both exquisite. I re-read Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her and co-lead an online discussion of the text.

I adored Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins and followed it swiftly with The Financial Lives of the Poets, which I enjoyed, though not quite as much. I read Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth, which I barreled through, though ultimately didn't find as satisfying as Atonement or Amsterdam. I read Karen Thompson Walker's lovely Age of Miracles and Louise Erdrich's stunning work, The Round House. And there were others, some required by my MFA mentor, others my choice.

I'm not usually someone who reads two books at once, but if they're different enough, my brain seems able to handle it. And so right now I'm reading both Victor LaValle's Devil in Silver and Jo Ann Beard's Boys of My Youth.

And the pile of books to-read is growing larger, many of them works I always meant to read but didn't get around to before. Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Mary Carr's The Liar's Club. David Ulin's The Lost Art of Reading seems all too fitting, and there is still one more book for our mentor group before the semester's out, Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis.

It's a lot. Sometimes I get a vague sense of panic that there will never be enough time to read everything I want to. But there's also an accompanying sense of deep satisfaction, like being where you were supposed to be all the time. As though feeding yourself when you hadn't even realized just how hungry you were. And that feeling? It is truly sublime.