Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reading Everything: The Search

So I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately.

I read a lot in general, although I work two jobs, each five days a week, with staggered days off, so I work 7-days-a-week and three of those days I work from 8:30 in the morning to 11 to 12 at night. But before going to bed, or whatever time I do have off, I typically read, and I almost always have my limit of library books checked out. And lately that's been non-fiction - partially because I feel that I'm behind on a lot of current issues, partially because I'm dealing with a lot of emotional stuff, and partially because I'm slightly addicted to self-help books.

According to the Dewey Decimal System, the self-help books are filed under the number 158.1. Sometimes when I'm blue or feeling less than I should, I can be found in this section. Thought sometimes I do drift a little further on to the 190s - Classical Philosophy - or the early 200s which is religious (Christian) history. I was raised a Christian, so if asked, I am Christian, though I no longer believe in the modern Church. The only time I feel connected to my spirituality is when I read something by the Jewish fathers (weird, eh?) or am listening to Sufjan Stevens. Or walking in some forest, field, city street on a blustery day.

I typically don't feel hypocritical about my tangential relationship with the religion of my upbringing. Most modern Christians (or Christianists) simply act out of fear - afraid what will become of the world if we let things change too much) and thus out of fear they are destroying everything.

But I was talking about reading. The non-fiction is no longer doing it for me; the last non-fic book I read that I really, really liked was Thomas L. Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded. I also currently have Carolyn Hax's Tell Me About It: Lying, sulking, getting fat...and 56 other things NOT to do while looking for Love. Not that I'm looking: just that I'm at the extreme tail end of a relationship: so I also have Dann Hazel's Moving On: The gay man's guide to coping when a relationship ends.

However, this is the biggest problem with such books including those in the 158.1 section: just like fiction, they are other people's stories, but unlike fiction, they are such that they really can't help you. It's great that Melody Beattie became Codependent No More but her telling me how to do it, won't help. I have to tell myself how to do it. It has to come through me. Somewhat like religion. Rick Warren's way to god is definitely not my way to god. Dann Hazel's way to happiness is not mine.

Which is why I like Carolyn Hax's rule No. 1 of what not to do:
Reading Relationship Books or Otherwise Training To Date

If you're reading a book or taking a class that tells you what to do, you aren't telling you what to do...I'm not saying a book can't help you do that - but if you want a relationship education, read Jane Austen. Or Fitzgerald, Ellison, Waugh, Flannery O'Connor...Read Anna Karenina (but stay away from married Russian women and/or train platforms).

So I return to the fiction stacks and to a goal I had as a child: To start with author last night beginning with A and read all the way to the Zs while taking whatever meandering detours I want. For example, I'm currently reading Chris Abani's The Virgin of Flames - in the second chapter, the main character Black thinks about Miss Haversham, so although I could wait to get to D for Dickens, I'll probably read Great Expectations soon.

And maybe I'll give Call Me By Your Name another. And though I'll skip Things Fall Apart (I've read it three times already), I'll pick something else by Chinua Achebe. I'm also excited by reading more Lee K. Abbott.

While writing this I was listening to "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" as done by Sufjan Stevens:

1 comment:

Ross said...

What a great recording! I've always loved this song, but I've never heard it done in such a relaxed, unhurried kind of way. I will definitely keep my eye out for more of Sufjan's music.

Great seeing you at the library today!

-Ross-a-tron