starstuff in Sheffield is doing 43 things including…

Read more books

27 cheers

 

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starstuff has written 4 entries about this goal

Hopes for books

I am either eager and organised or eager and impatient (I suspect impatience!) but I have already created an illustrated list of 12 books to read next year, via Library Thing.

That this list isn’t just a fantasy list (although there are strong elements of that) shows how far I’ve come not just in my reading ability, but in my belief in myself. I have been reflecting on how to word the How I Did It (which have become rather important to write), and I realised that this goal is one of my biggest achievements of the year.

Happy New Year to all my 43Things friends. I sincerely hope that next year takes you somewhere.



Oh dear

I want to whirl through my 43Things list and slash goals off left, right and centre like Zorro cracking his whip.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

I am a perfectionist with high expectations; a procrastinator extraordinaire; a hare in a tortoise’s body.

Reading is something I thought I would have time for, something I could train myself to do for an hour a day. I put all my effort into wading through symptoms like a deep bog, and from my vantage point of two weeks later I can look back and see how little I’ve worked on my goals. Then I realise, Oh, that’s how ill I am. Oh.

I’ve picked up three different books in the last two weeks. I want to read something all the way through rather than pick at them like a bored and fussy eater, but the first two I was at a loss. My attention wouldn’t stick, I kept seeing around the text rather than the text itself and the words became like little ants that fell and wandered off the page.

I think I might go back to timing myself for thirty minute reading sessions for this third one. That seemed to help focus the mind.



Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

I finished a book! This is the first time in how long…?

Jeanette Winterson is one of my favourite authors, and Oranges had been sat on my shelf half-read and half-hidden behind a row of other ragtag books, each marked in various places where I had started and drifted from, trying to beat my poor concentration. I struggle to read, but everywhere in my room are piles of books, rows of books, bags of books.
I guess this makes me some kind of optimist.

“Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it. Those who do not do it, think of it as a cousin of stamp collecting, a sister of the trophy cabinet, bastard of a sound bank account and a weak mind.”
— Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson writes in spirals, in the same way most people think in spirals. People don’t think in lines, they jump from one memory to another, from one association to something completely unrelated.

Oranges is the story of Winterson’s own life – fact woven in with fiction – and how she grew up in a radical church and left when she fell in love with another girl. At the London Literature Festival she said that her mother refused to let any books into the house that weren’t (as she called them) Godly. Winterson bought books in secret and kept them under her bed, piled high until the mattress began to rise up like the princess and the pea. Her mother found the books and burned them all in a bonfire in the garden, sending scraps of stories and poems flying up on the heat and smoke.

You can listen to the talk here: http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=602

Funny, strong, insightful, sometimes fantastical (the story of a girl Winnet who has to leave her wizard father’s kingdom doesn’t uncomfortably elbow into the main plot, but bursts like a red carnation to pull in the other colours in the narrative together) and brilliant. I love this book.

Quotes:

“There are many forms of love and affection, some people can spend their whole lives together without knowing each other’s names. Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights who can call you home? Only the one who knows your name.”

“The unknownness of my needs frightens me. I do now know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met. If you want to find out the circumference of an oil drop, you can use lycopodium powder. That’s what I’ll find. A tub of lycopodium powder, and I will sprinkle it on to my needs and find out how large they are. Then when I meet someone I can write up the experiment and show them what they have to take on.”

“I didn’t want to tell the story of myself, but someone I called myself. If you read yourself as fiction, it’s rather more liberating than reading yourself as fact.”

“And when I look at a history book and think of the imaginative effort it has taken to squeeze this oozing world between two boards and typeset, I am astonished. Perhaps the event has an unassailable truth. God saw it. God knows. But I am not God. And so when someone tells me what they heard or saw, I believe them, and I believe their friend who also saw, but not in the same way, and I can put these accounts together and I will not have a seamless wonder but a sandwich laced with mustard of my own.”

“Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It’s all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat’s cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more.”

“Of course, people will laugh at you, but people laugh at a great many things so there is no need to take it personally.”



A challenge

I read on someone’s “How I did it” this week that they set aside thirty minutes twice a day to read, and was this way able to read a book a month for the past eight months.

I have a lot of problems reading (my friend Jon describes dyslexia as a tasty side dish to M.E.) but I like the idea of having a block of thirty minutes to read in. For the past two days I’ve been tackling one book (“Being Good” by Simon Blackburn) by settling down with the timer on my phone.

Reading reminds me a lot of meditation. I get distracted easily and have to be mindful of my attention, and I have to stay relaxed but focused to stay with the page. The black font on white background compete for attention with each other (I often see around words rather than the actual word itself), I read the same line over and over without taking it in, words and letters jump about the page and so on and so on.

But these thirty minute blocks seem to be helping. They give me structure and a new aim; it’s better for me to read for a set number of minutes than a set number of pages. Four pages can take twenty minutes, so putting the focus on the minutes feels more like an achievement. I am enthusiastic about ideas, and I collect books rather than read them. It would be amazing to finish one of the thick volumes that I have on my shelf.



starstuff has gotten 27 cheers on this goal.

 

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