For perhaps too long now I’ve been choosing to read self-consciously challenging books. Ulysses, War and Peace and Don Quixote among others, always stopping now and then to gulp down a shorter, more straightforward book before ploughing on with the ‘big read’. I always get something out of them, but my reading habits of late have been seriously weighted in favour of big hitters.
This is compounded by a bad habit of mine. I can’t give up on a book. Doesn’t matter what it is, if I start a book then I’m going to finish it, no matter how hard or poorly written I think it is. Even if it’s among the worst books I’ve read – say something by Martin Amis or Saul Bellow.
Currently I’m somewhat bogged down in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. This is far from an Amis or a Bellow, in fact it’s mind-blowingly brilliant. But it also requires a substantial investment of time and is just too weighty to come on the train to work with me, so I can only give a little attention at a time.
What a relief then to pick up one of the 30 books that sit lonely and ignored on my shelf and dive into it on my Monday commute.
So it was that with John Updike’s The Music School collection of short stories I re-discovered the feeling of losing yourself in the printed page (you know, when you look up from a book and, somewhat befuddled, wonder where the time went). In fact I damn near missed a connection I was so deep into the book. I know it’s not about the numbers, but I do always look at how many pages a book has when I start it and how nice to read 60 pages in a day.