Christmas of 2014, my mom gave me Reamde by Neal Stephenson. I started reading it last week. You have to fully commit to a Stephenson novel, it’s not the sort of thing you just pick up. It takes commitment.
As much as I love the action-paced dystopic young adult novels (The Hunger Games, Divergent, even Harry Potter) there’s nothing like taking the time to immerse myself in a fictional world. I lost the ability to read long novels for a couple years, but I’m reclaiming it now. Part of the impetus for starting this blog was to reconnect with my high school and college self who could spend 10 hours a day just reading… although I had plenty habits back then that I don’t need to dig up!
You know those articles about our attention-deficient, social-media addicted age? This is my retreat from that world. We need balance in our intellectual lives. The energy of observing modern phenomena, reacting to it, starting a heated discussion– well and good. But we can’t contribute to those passionate, present conversations if we don’t have the foundation created by quietly probing our own minds. Stephenson always stretches my imagination. That phrase is overused, because I really feel like my brain is expanding when I read his books. It’s fantastic. But I need quiet time. No Facebook notifications, no spoilers. (I mean it! NO SPOILERS!!)
So, see you when I come up for air. Or when I’m unwillingly dragged back to reality by pedestrian needs like eating and paying rent.
I want to re-read The Lord of the Rings before continuing with The Hobbit Party. I’ve been slowly reading The Fellowship of the Ring. As I started to dig in, I thought, “So this is what it’s like to read a book that wasn’t written for the sake of being made into a movie.” It’s a book written to be a book. I have been reading YA fiction (Divergent, The Maze Runner), fast-paced, plot-driven, dystopic novels. I love the genre, but those books are not very good. They needed one more editorial pass through, more plot-structure… the stories are good and the futuristic worlds are vivid, but the publishing seemed rushed so that the author and publisher could collect on the movie rights.
The Lord of the Rings, however, was written for readers who will spend many afternoons, basking in the sunshine, and absorbing the multi-layered narrative.
Neal Stephenson writes book-books. Whenever I read Stephenson, I’m always surprised and delighted. I feel like my brain gets a workout. That’s the point of reading: to be introduced to new ideas/worlds/concepts. The fast-paced, plot-driven books are exciting, but they tend to feed me what I already know I like. Reading The Fellowship of the Ring, for the first time in over 10 years, I’m having a hard time getting motivated to sit still for several hours to enjoy it– because several hours is what it will take. I need to be willing to shut out my world: my Facebook arguments, the political news and commentary, my bills, my job search, my volunteer work… all of that has to be blocked out, so that I can focus on the journey with Frodo.
I get the sense that this kind of book isn’t what I need right now. As an adolescent, I loved escaping into my books. As an adult, I love my independent life– I don’t need to escape. So why bother slogging through the trilogy? Well, I want to find what the book offers besides escapism, maybe a better understanding of the English language, or Western culture. Maybe I will enjoy the discipline of shutting out the world, taking in every sentence, reading slowly.