Something has happened. Something I haven’t experienced in … so many years I can’t remember the last time. Something marvelous and inspiring and … more … so much more.
Wednesday, after only about five weeks of reading I finished Richard Ford’s Independence Day and felt a kind of sense of accomplishment. Whenever I take time for reading not work related it’s a bit of an event. I read A LOT! I read all day, every day, no time off for bad behaviour. The bulk of my living comes from reading and I work all the time.
I don’t read many books for leisure in the run of a year because generally it happens right before I go to sleep and I can only get in a couple of pages or 15 minutes max before I fall dead away and usually I’m not that into the book anyway so putting it down in favour of sleep is easy. Remember The Davinci Code? That took forever to finish. I couldn’t turn off the editor part of my brain that desperately wanted to whip that book into shape. I find it impossible to lose myself in a poorly written book. But turning to the classics or more skillfully written modern literature doesn’t always work either. Yes, my internal editor won’t nitpick the writing (though my internal writer will admire certain phrasings and techniques and note them for future use) but literature can be dense. It can require a lot of thought and effort to process. And after a long day, I’m often not up to the challenge.
So on Wednesday afternoon during lunch I finished Ford’s book with a sense of accomplishment because it really hadn’t taken that long to get through and even though I didn’t feel particularly moved or provoked in any way I didn’t feel cheated either. The experience was not unpleasant. And nine times out of ten the experience is at least a little unpleasant. I have the next novel in that series but I wasn’t immediately drawn to find out what happens next, so I went to the bookcase to see what else was on tap.
And that’s when I noticed Nancy Huston’s Fault Lines. I purchased the book a couple of months ago at Frye Festival. She wasn’t the reason I went to Frye (Russell Banks drew me). I hadn’t read her, hadn’t even heard of her before to my knowledge. But I noticed right away that she was the draw for many of my peers.
I attended a round table discussion in which she participated. Four authors discussing the a-ha moments of writing. I came away with the sense that she was a very opinionated and private person. She left me a little cold to be honest. She seemed … lofty, guarded, controlled. I immediately went to the bookstore and bought another member of the panel’s book. But I was still curious enough about her to attend her solo evening event.
A trio of musicians played exactly the right notes at the right time while Nancy Huston read from Fault Lines in English and French. Except this was no ordinary reading. The characters are all children and she became each of these children one after the other and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the French parts and it didn’t matter that I had a not so great opinion of the author before the event, she became the children and I was mesmerized. During the performance (because it totally wasn’t a reading) she sang and danced and totally abandoned herself to become her characters. It was the most amazing literary event I’ve ever attended, and I’ve attended a lot of amazing literary events. Afterward I immediately rushed into the lobby and bought her book, having gained a new respect and awe for the woman as an artist.
Fast forward to Wednesday, bed time, picking a new book after finishing Richard Ford’s novel and finding myself uninspired to immediately continue with the next in his series. My eyes slid across Nancy Huston’s name in the bookshelf and instantly I was transported back to that auditorium and the most magical night of literature ever, so I plucked the novel from the herd and settled into my bed for a few minutes or pages reading. And then I got lost. Two hundred and fifty pages before I looked up and noticed the time. Really late! I hated to stop but I didn’t want to stay up all night either. So I set it aside, turned out the light and tried to drift. Flash! Crack! Lightning. Thunder. And I’m up. I’ll just finish to the end of the section …
At some point I slept for a few hours and then finished the novel. Two sittings. Hours of reading at one time. Completely lost in the story. THIS never happens to me anymore! I had forgotten the joy of a good book. How it makes me want to write. How it makes me want to read more books. Well written, yet easily accessible. Brilliant! I loved it so much that as soon as I finished I wanted to start at the beginning and read it again. I didn’t. I am loaning it to my mother first. When it returns I’ll read it again. If you haven’t already, read this book. It may be one of my favourites of all time.
I have since moved on to Russell Banks (the Frye draw) and so far that reading is going well too, more quickly than the Ford book, though I have been able to put it down and go to sleep.
Listening To: crows fighting with seagulls over crusts of bread