The start of a new year is a time for setting arbitrary, random goals for ourselves, right? We call these resolutions and we make our little lists and tack them up on our mirrors or set reminders in our phones and promise to be good. Yes, we will give up sugar, do Couch-to-5K, wake up early, lose 10 pounds, earn a raise or promotion, take up knitting. That is, things we feel we should do. And we, if we’re lucky, will succeed for a few days before dropping onto the couch with a Magnum ice cream bar (or three; those things are good!) and Netflix set to whatever we’re binge-watching that week.
That’s why half-way through December I decided to cheat a bit, make it easy on myself, and resolved that in 2015 I was going to do what I wanted to do: Read my books.
This isn’t to read more books; I read plenty already. This isn’t to read a certain quality of book; in the past I’ve attempted to read down those lists (best-sellers, best of the 20th century, best post-modern reads, best, best, best) and always fell off in favor of chasing some interest-du-jour: the healing properties of herbs and crystals, how to make moonshine (research for a novel, I swear!), biographies of Gene Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, whatever. This is to read my books, the volumes I’ve accumulated over the years that I’d shelve or stack at the foot of my bed and ignore in favor of those I had checked out of the library. Due-dates are a serious incentive when choosing what to read next.
So I’m freeing myself of those shackles and getting intimate with the collection I keep under my roof. I have a bit of everything: Hollywood Babylon to The Idiot’s Guide to Being Psychic that I found at the dirt mall for $2 to Infinite Jest to Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia to a lot in between. I’m going to read through as much as I can in this upcoming year and Creative Loafing is letting me write about the experience here.
In the writing, I’m not aiming to be objective. I don’t want to attempt stuffy, academic analysis, nor do I want to try to sell anything. I hope to offer up my books, myself, my subjectivity, my involvement with the reading. In one of the books I’ve already started for this project, Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, I’ve come across a quote that sums up my intent almost perfectly: “I am beginning to realize that taking the self out of our essays is a form of repression. Taking the self out feels like obeying a gag order — pretending an objectivity where there is nothing objective about the experience of confronting and engaging with and swooning over literature.” Confront and engage with and swoon over texts — yeah, that’s what I want to do. And if anyone out there has read any of the books I write about, or feels compelled to read them after the fact, I urge you to reach out — let’s chat; let’s swoon together.
Up first: Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees.