Saturday, May 2, 2015

Somewhere Only I Know

It's a Saturday night, and I sit on a sofa with a laptop and two books. Music is playing, and I am trying to listen and hum along to songs in vain.

It's a problem I have increasingly encountered. I want to read, but the temptation of the laptop is overbearing. And I idly visit websites - Quora, my email, Reddit. Ultimately, I get bored and move to Spotify, that great bastion of music. It's the greatest thing since the Internet, I do believe. Being able to stream nearly every song you want in mere seconds - I do not take this for granted.

So I sit, and listen to Keane's "Bend and Break," and almost immediately, want to listen to a certain song lyric by The Kinks. So I listen to "A Well-Respected Man," which invariably reminds me of Collective Soul's "A Smashing Young Man," so I start listening to that. Then after, the awesome epic guitar riffs remind me of Nirvana and Bush, and off I go looking for my grunge playlist...

This is ADD made manifest. Something has happened to me. It has crept up on me, slowly, quite carefully. Consider. Once upon a time I would carry a book around with me everywhere, looking for every opportunity to read. I recall the beginning of seventh grade, when I discovered Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I borrowed the book from my teacher's library, and took it home and began to read. My uncle came, and took my grandmother and I out to lunch, and I brought the book with me. Afterwards, I went with my dad to the Home Depot, and guess what I brought with me?

This was five years ago, I recall. Today, in this year of grace, 2015, I sit with And Then There Were None mere inches away from this keyboard which I use to type this message. I have picked it up occasionally this evening, glancing through a few pages, remembering the great mystery surrounding Indian Island, the shocking murders, the unbelievable ending which to this day never fails to fill me with amazement and awe at Agatha Christie and her clever mind.

I cannot fully read the novel, though. This is not such a surprise, however. I have only ever reread one book without jumping around and skipping parts. And that's okay. The pleasure of rereading is to enjoy a book without all the introns and parts one may consider dull. One can go to a beloved chapter and reread it, word for word, and ignore the rest.

The discerning reader of this piece can't have failed to note that I mentioned there are two books on the sofa next to me. The second is a curious work that goes by the name of Titus Groan, by the most interesting of authors: Mervyn Peake. Peake's a most interesting person: a painter by trade, he wrote his most famous works, the Gormenghast trilogy, over a period of ten years. Peake was born in China to missionary parents before the Great War, and the memories and reminiscences of Chinese culture would stay with him. During the Second World War, Peake worked on propaganda posters for the British government to earn his bread and butter. Sadly, Peake died of Parkinson's (or Lewy Body dementia? the details are unclear) and suffered a great deal in his last years. His writing and artistic abilities largely disappeared, as he underwent electroconvulsive therapy. He died in 1968 at the age of 57.

I bring Peake up as the perfect metaphor. An artist, especially one such as Peake, is cautious, delicate. He creates a world so vast, so carefully and methodically, that it sneaks up on one. It is much like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, or else Susanna Collins' amazing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, or the vertiginous, hilarious The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. However, what they all have in common is that they require time. They require patience and many hours spent in a room, preferably with rosewood chairs and a pot of warm jasmine tea. Nothing less will suffice. I have not gotten past the first 10 pages of Titus Groan, because I understand this. I need time. The dilemma? I actually do have time.

I have a busy schedule, now more so than ever: an issue of the school newspaper I work on came out yesterday. AP exams begin Monday, and I am taking four this year. Several teachers have given nothing but tests in preparation, and I have been dutifully studying. (This, by the way, is my rather pathetic excuse for abandoning this blog for the past few months. Heather has been the very picture of grace, maintaining this blog and continuing the spirit of the Blur.) But for every night that I have spent up working on academics, extracurriculars and life in general, I have had an hour or so to myself, which I have largely frittered away on listening to Spotify and rechecking my email. School is the same way: during lunchtime, I could easily spend time reading. My lifestyle has created a false sense in me, the false idea that I do not have time to read.

But I will change. Two weeks hence, I will be done with all exams. I will still have work to do, but it will not be as much. And seven weeks hence, I will be done with school. And I will read. I must. You see, despite my aversion to reading that has started of late, I still want to read. There is this excitement, the idea of reading my way through a large stack of novels. Mervyn Peake may have devolved into a tragic insanity, but I will recover from my own tragic insanity.

Reader, you may have experienced this yourself. I encourage you to follow my lead, and disconnect yourself. Nothing is as important as time spent thinking and improving yourself. I have always been a fan of self-improvement and self-education, and reading is nothing less than that. A stack of novels, sitting on my desk and elsewhere, await. I will read my way through them.

I must.



  1. Great post. I do occasionally find myself putting down a book as the pull of technology is too strong for me to resist.

    I reread lots of books nowadays, but I really do not skip them. I live to relive the experience of the book at its full potential, to feel like I am actually THERE. Is that odd?

    Also, welcome back R.R!

  2. I get distracted on the internet. I love to reread my favourite books, but I don't often skip parts. Instead, Kel, Lirael, Scarlet, Hermione are familiar friends who I get to know again and better.
    I have and AP exam in the next few weeks and other exams so I know the struggle: books vs. everything else- final projects newspaper articles and blogging. but sometimes you don't have a choice. Books are important. Keep reading