Sunday, August 06, 2006

So many books ...

As far back as I can remember, I've been an obsessive, voracious reader. I can recall one particular family vacation when my grandmother chided me for keeping my nose buried in books and not spending enough time looking out the window.

I have the habit, too, of starting books before finishing the ones I've already started. I'm probably reading a half-dozen or so now, and that doesn't include the short stories that I read out of this or that collection, or the time I spend reading dozens of newspapers and magazines.

So it was nice to her journalist/memoirist Joe Queenan confess, in an essay appearing in today's New York Times Book Review, that he can't help himself from constantly starting new reading projects. He's now reading 27 books, he says.

Writes Queenan (Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country): "Friends say that I suffer from a short attention span, but exactly the opposite is true. I do not stop reading books because I lose interest in them; if anything, I have too long an attention span, one that allows me to read dozens of books simultaneously without losing interest in any of them."

And later in the same esssay, while standing in line at a book store, he asks a friend, "Do you think this is a disease?" The cashier says: "Yes. But it's a good disease to have."

I feel his pain.

And, for a writer, it's the right kind of pain.

"Writers aren't born, they make themselves -- by reading," Lucy Ellmann observes in a review of My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud, published in the New York Times Book Review of 3/26/06. "Malamud's career was the product of huge labor."


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