So, as you may (or likely may not) remember, back at the beginning of September, my dear friend and partner in over-ambition, Stephanie Whiteside, and I started a new project, specifically one where we were going to read All The Books.
Well, it’s been a month, and I am here to report that I am behind. Woefully, horribly, not-at-all-surprisingly behind.
I knew, admittedly, that this would happen- there are a lot of places in my life where I’m very good about deadlines and time tables and so forth (ok, mainly work, but that’s a big piece of my life), but they are definitely much more of a struggle for me on personal projects. This is part of why I’m so inclined to work on things with other people; if I’m left to my own devices, I will start everything and finish nothing. Working with someone else at least gives me the threat of their disappointment if I drop the ball, which helps. In this case, though, I think it’s more than just simple deadline-aversion, and I’m going to have to figure out how to deal with it if I’m going to stand any chance of getting through this project.
A big piece of the problem is definitely that I’m out of the habit of reading books. Now, if you know me, this sounds ludicrous- I started reading right about my third birthday and haven’t stopped since. And that’s still true- I read all the time: in the morning when I commute, on breaks at work, at lunch, as I go home, when I lie in bed at night. I consume probably hundreds of thousands of words a day, not counting all the words I get paid to read at my job.
But the key here is that I’m out of practice reading books. Most of what I read is in short form; stories, articles, blogs, posts, blurbs- you name it. Some of that is just out of sheer convenience- when you’re squeezed into BART for 20 mins, it’s much easier to read an article someone tweeted on your phone than it is to open up a 600 page book and try not to elbow your neighbors. Another part of it is after-effects of grad school (you’d think I’d have gotten over this by now, but apparently not), wherein I got so tired of reading vast, dense tomes that I slipped into reading nothing more complex than tabloids and cereal boxes.
What this means, though, is that I no longer really have the attention span for longer-building works, novels in particular, which is an interesting thing to realize about myself, given how I used to tear through trilogies in a weekend. Functionally, this means that I’m going to have to re-learn how to get invested a story and characters and a narrative arc if I want to even have a chance of completing this project.
Fortunately for me, Don Quixote is actually a pretty good book to re-train myself on. It’s engaging without being heavily moralistic or overtly philosophical; it’s quite funny, with a lovable protagonist; and best of all, it has short chapters, hah! I did read the intros, or most of them: the translator’s note was fascinating, and as someone who dabbles in languages myself, I found it really compelling, which made me more excited to read the book. The second forward was a self-congratulatory academic wank-fest, so I nope’d out of it after about three pages. (My tolerance for people patting themselves on the back for how many obscure references they can throw out like in-jokes is so, so low, you guys.)
In any case, we persevere. If you’re playing along at home, this is the version of Don Quixote we’re using. How are you liking it?