Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading as an avocation...

I am sitting in the slant rays of the evening sun -- it won't go down yet for about another two hours, at this season, so it's both very pleasant and very inconvenient for reading or--indeed--looking at screens, computer or television.

So I have given up on reading for the moment, tired of squinting but unwilling to draw the curtains against this lovely light after a cold, wet, windy, miserable day -- and am glaring instead at a solid double armload of library books.  I've just confirmed that four of my "HOLDS" are ready for pick up at the local branch; and I've put a hold on yet another volume.

It was an epoch-marking day when I learned how to manage my library book account on line.  The collaboration between GREED and TECHNOLOGY produces awesome results.  So far, alas, it hasn't produced PHYSICAL FITNESS, although the closest branch library is a feasible, if long, walk.  But there has been such a disproportionate amount of foul miserable weather that even since the snow and ice disappeared there have been few days when hiking out with a book bag has appealed.

Before I gave up, temporarily, just now, I was reading P. D. James's diary/memoir, Time to Be in Earnest, written over the year that she was 77.  It's a  bookshelf companion to May Sarton, Turning Seventy.  I'm trying not to consider either of them an instruction manual, but...  The quality of these women's prose is an antidote to Twitter -- and even to Facebook; I don't think I need any more practice in 140-character snark, as a genre, if that's what it is.  Although there was an interesting Tweeting exchange earlier with Alan Jacobs over the status of YA fiction vis-a-vis "literary fiction."
Still mulling over that question, muttering under my breath just a bit.

I know that in my lifetime the reading of "literary fiction," if that label has any meaning at all, has had a lot to do with my formation.  (I was going to say "maturation," but let us not kid each other, here.)  And in P. D. James this afternoon, I found this from Henry James--no relation, of course!--writing about Anthony Trollope: "We trust to novels to maintain us in the practice of great indignations and great generosities."  And that catches it, just about exactly, I think -- by contrast with social media, which maintain us in the practice of our Daily Snits and Hourly LOLs. I can't remember who said that we check FB in the morning to verify who it is we're supposed to despise, today.  Not enough, to keep the mind, or the heart, or the soul, alive.  Not alone, anyhow.

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