Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Salon: Reading mess: too many directions at once

Dropping in.
 I have ailing parents (97, and 92) that I've been visiting and was focused on them. I took the long drive again from Virginia to Massachusetts and listened to Stephen King's Revival. In a previous post -- The Writer and the Governor, I began thinking about King, how I admired him and ought to read him again. It has been many (too many to count) years since I have picked up one of his books. So I picked Revival. Appropriate. (Though now I read that the LePage-King tiff continues and King says he's written at least 2 characters who have LePage like characteristics so maybe I should have chosen one of  those).
Revival is told by Jamie Morton, who grows up in a Maine town similar to Durham where King grew up about a decade later.  As a child of 6 Jamie is befriended by a new young minister, the Rev. Charles Daniels, who comes to town with his beautiful wife and young son. The minister is fascinated with electricity and performs what could be a miracle on Jamie's brother who has lost his voice. Then  life-changing, faith challenging tragedy occurs and the minister leaves town only to pop up again at various times in various incarnations -- increasingly more sinister over the course of Jamie's life. King says he was inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the writing and themes of  a fall from innocence, and seeking forbidden knowledge dominate the tale.
Reading Revival reminded me why I am -- and am not drawn --to such books --  even as I admire the remarkable story telling ability and character of the author.  Horror doesn't interest me so much.
Nostalgia does.

 What I love is the portrait of a bygone time in an area of Maine I know well. Though I didn't inhabit the Durham, Lisbon Falls  area in the '60s and '70s as the writer and his hero did, I came to know the area a few decades later-- and can see the roads, almost recognize the landmarks-- I've traveled along Route 9, and passed that little Methodist Church. When King mentions Shiloh, I remember visiting that  other Durham church (and reading about its own dark history and maniacal minister.)  Is Sky-Top, where lightning strikes,  very very loosely based on a defunct local ski area called Sky-Hy? King blends fictive locations with real ones in his recreation of Castle County. For those who have lived nearby, there's the fun of speculating on those blends.

And then on returning to Virginia I listened to the first few chapters of  Station Eleven, then switched to listening to Cloud Atlas, as I tried to catch up on the ReadAlong. When I returned home to my messy house and untended garden,  I discovered an Amazon Thrift book I had  given up on arriving in time for reading before book club  had finally arrived. So I chucked Station Eleven and Cloud Atlas and picked up Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Pressured, I started flying through that book, skimming the pages.
I don't like reading this way. I intensely dislike reading this way.
I quit. I skip book club.
I clean house. My tend the garden. I let myself be sad. I return to part-time job. I also plan/teach yoga classes. I watch tv.
I seek my rhythms.
My reading life is such a mess, I let it go.
 I need to reset before starting again.


  1. I think I'm learning with my reading life, as with much of life really, it is a reset constantly. I can't seem to find a rhythm either, but maybe that in itself is a kind of rhythm.

  2. I’ve given up on trying to read more than one book at a time (although I do usually have an audio book on the go in the car). It’s just too messy, and the older I get, the more I need things neat and tidy, in my reading life as well as my life in general. That’s sometimes a tall order - I have aging parents too, and things can get messy there very quickly.
    I enjoy the nostalgic aspects of King’s writing too, and will check out the audio version of Revival.

  3. I hate it when I can't settle into a book. It took me the longest time to get immersed in Middlemarch---probably over halfway through it.

  4. Those in-between spells begin to feel cyclical: I'm annoyed I can't settle on a book, and I can't settle to read because I'm annoyed. Good luck breaking through. Be gentle with yourself!

  5. Give yourself a break. That's a long road trip. I've only been to Maine once but it seems ceaselessly interesting, especially when comparing fictitious & real locales in King's book. BTW, I mentioned your blog in my last post b/c of Hustvedt's Blazing World which won an award. Have a good week.

  6. Hi Barbara, just checking in on you. Hope all is well. Missing you in the blogosphere!