Avoidance

 This picture is not at all related to the post, but I made it and I like it.

This picture is not at all related to the post, but I made it and I like it.

Instead of writing, I’ve been reading.

It happens in the middle of the night, when I wake up from dreams at 1 or 2 or 4am. It happens before I go to sleep. It happens on the lurching bus. It happens on weekends. How long will it last? I don’t know, but it’s fascinating. Who knew I had so much time? I found it through avoidance.

Early this morning, I finished Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, by Angela Garbes. Then, I started reading a Kindle sample of The Happiest Baby on the Block, and found it useful enough to go ahead and buy the whole thing. But it felt didactic, so I wasn’t really enjoying it, so I returned to the book list Lisa made for me. From there, I tried a sample of Eve Ensler’s cancer memoir, In the Body of the World, and: yes! This is what I was looking for! Delicious prose about hard stuff. Poetic without being airy. It felt like a full realization of the directives I absorbed from Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. She’s all about what she calls “carnal detail”—another way to say “sensory detail,” but a way meant to wake writers up. It did wake me up, and then I wanted to go back to sleep, and avoid writing a little longer.

In between finishing The Art of Memoir on Monday and starting In the Body of the World just hours ago, I finished The Art of GatheringI’d been dragging my feet on it for weeks—and then raced through The Course of Love. I highlighted some passages in The Course of Love, and even enjoyed its premise; it’s basically a book about couple’s therapy. But it just didn’t stick to my bones. Writing this, I totally forgot I’d read it until I read back through messages to Lisa. And The Art of Gathering, while pragmatic and largely right, felt too hard. It left me never wanting to organize a conference again, let alone a brunch.

Looking at everything I’ve read this week, I feel proud. At points, reading a book in a day has been my thing. It started with my elementary school attempts to complete the Pizza Hut reading challenge each summer, happened in college all the time (but not in the same way), and picked up again when I decided to read The Information in one big gulp in the summer of 2012, and post about it along the way. Then, it became even more of a thing with 24-Hour Bookclub, which has been over for three years now but was a big deal to me at the time. So voracious reading has been there, in the background—even a part of my identity. But reading a book in a day as a stunt or out of desperation feels different from finishing a book a day accidentally. Or, not accidentally, but as a side effect. A symptom of avoidance.

Avoiding writing this very post, I devoured an article I loved: “Where is Barack Obama?,” in New York Magazine. (Found through Luke Leighfield’s great weekly newsletter of links, Ten Things.) There’s a passage about how Obama is approaching his memoir:

Occasionally restless, he has taken to bringing in friends to chat during what his aides call ‘desk time,’ both to break up the monotony and to ask for memories of the administration. Kaine said that once, last year, Obama asked him to come over and talk when he was clearly supposed to be writing. Their 30-minute appointment bled toward an hour.

He was clearly supposed to be writing, and so am I.