Experimentation

I had a much calmer day than yesterday, all back to normal, mostly: a little work, a bike ride in the 70 degree weather, and an evening of reading. I’m trying not to obsess about whether I got the job, so it won’t spoil my weekend.

I began reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed today since I’m teaching it in class next week. I’m re-reading the book, actually. I haven’t taught it before, so we’ll see how it goes.

What this means is that I’m in the middle of five books right now: Woolf’s Diary, The Tale of Genji, Mary Oliver’s American Primitive, Mishra’s An End to Suffering, and Ehrenreich’s book. I haven’t been in the middle of five books since I was last taking classes, quite a few years ago, but I decided to try an experiment and read a bunch of things at once, to see how I like it. For most of my life, except for school, I’ve been a one-book-at-a-time person, but I’ve been reading other book bloggers who read a bunch of things at once and like it, and I’m inspired. It’s not that I feel any lack reading only one book at a time: I like being absorbed in one story, like the focus, have a better time remembering the plot and characters, and don’t have any troublesome choices to make about what to read every time I want to.

However, this works best for reading highly absorbing, or even mildly absorbing books. It does keep me, I think, from tackling more difficult things. Would I pick up the Tale of Genji if I expected to read that and only that until finished? I would be less likely to, certainly. With one book at a time, I don’t read much poetry, since I don’t have the discipline to focus on much of it at once. And reading rapidly through a series of poems doesn’t seem like a good idea. I don’t read many collections of short stories. I’ve begun to read through Montaigne essays a couple of times, but I give up because I get tired and want a break. The same goes for Virginia Woolf’s diary.

I can’t see myself reading two novels at once, unless we’re talking about something like Don Quixote, which I might want to vary with something shorter and faster. But I can see myself keeping one novel at a time going, and then a selection of other types of books. The test will be to see if I keep at those other, non-novel books, or whether they suffer from neglect.

We’ll see how it goes — I’ll make sure to report back on this experiment.

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