I wouldn’t call 2019 the worst year of my life because I don’t think it is ever useful to compare the highs and lows of life. It has been a shit year and as such it has been a wonderful year for reading. With about 80 read so far, they’ve nourished me as they draw me deep into the hallucinations that written language provides.
I’ve read some galleys from Netgalley:
- beautiful art books like Elise Mahan’s Celestial Watercolor, Tamara LaPorte’s Ever After and Oliver Sin’s book on drawing portraits
- new favorite books like Lawrence Weschler’s portrait of Oliver Sacks — And How Are You, Dr. Sacks? as well as Akil Jumarasa’s phenomenal book Half Gods.
- a couple mysteries I enjoyed from Raymond Benson and from Faith Martin.
I’ve binged on books by
Additionally I’ve revisited authors I enjoy reading like Oliver Sacks, Anais Nin, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett and started reading series like The Witcher that I have in my collection but hadn’t gotten to reading yet. My reading habits are a general mix of audiobooks, ebooks and physical books that is situational and allows me to work on art while I “read”.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
As a writer I find that there is in fact an upper limit to the amount of reading I should do because the seductive nature of other people’s creative worlds can become too intoxicating. The world of my own book requires time and mental space that precludes the worlds others have built. However, I have found that I am not a writer who is able to distill still hot and bleeding pain into beautiful words. I am a wallower. If left alone in my own viscera I am liable to drown in it. This is where reading is especially powerful. It grants permission to enter another’s world in a very active way. I find this to be less true of audiobooks but they are wonderful companions for art projects and city building in Cities Skylines so no disrespect intended. At the start of 2019 I had plans to tackle creative projects, grow my blog and develop my creative pursuits to new points in their life cycle. Then the year started taking a toll with events that were outside my control. It was possible at first to put a happy face on all of it, to keep pressing forward but ultimately, as with a rip current, it was futile to keep fighting all the sorrow the year had in store for me. Which is where reading came in.
I read a lot of mysteries and detective fiction–I grew up on Sherlock Holmes and continued to have an interest in the darker genre of mysteries (more noir than cozy) because the best stories explore characters in deeper more unvarnished ways than other fiction typically does. This is debatable, of course, but darker fiction that doesn’t focus on gore tends to fixate on the friction between characters’ outer worlds and their inner worlds. That escapism helped me cope as the friction between my outer and inner worlds were becoming too real and devastating to consider in a productive fashion. Harry Bosch was especially poignant at times as he traveled through areas I grew up in and around on the west coast. The resolution of the crimes and mysteries were less important to me than the exploration of familiar spaces fictionalized as they were.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I reveled in the fiction for much of the year because I had happened into these amazingly long series which my library provided me access to and as such I disappeared into the lives and dramas of long running detective series filled with reoccurring characters and compelling villains. These escapes from my world were like mini-vacations into worlds where the detectives may not always come away unscathed but their sense of justice prevails because of their tenacity, cleverness or their belief that what is right is vital even when the world pushes back. That doggedness was something I needed. It wasn’t that my life was something I wanted to escape but rather that my helplessness was something I could not fight against without further draining myself. Reading is often therapeutic for the way in which it feels like meditation or dreaming–my mind exploring worlds my eyes cannot see.
Some healing began without me noticing and I had strength to delve into nonfiction again, a realm that can be harder emotionally because it lacks the “right” endings one can achieve in fiction. Reading Anais Nin and Oliver Sacks helped me return to my own desire to create, to transform experiences into art and to engage with the world again.