It seems preposterous, probably bordering on pretension and unoriginality, for me to be writing about reading again, but fuck it–here goes. I often say out loud to anyone who will listen, “There are (insert large number) of reasons that I read and all of them are good.” Certainly, that is bloviating and hyperbolic, but it’s based in a truth that is very present and also elusive, hence why I keep coming back to it. What’s interesting about this topic–not only for me, but also in general–is that reading is basically an act of trying to find something; you begin with the first word of the first sentence and you then chase the words until you reach the last word of the last sentence and along the way you pretty much get the world.
I love to read sentences in two ways, simultanously. First, for the information contained: Lyndon Johnson stole a Senate election with 87 votes; Nick Carraway was raised with more money than you; Hal Incandenza liked the privacy of getting high almost as much as he liked getting high itself. Second, the shape of the sentence, or the “prose”. Prose is a tricky word and my definition of it is the way the words massage the brain. What I mean by that: I will read a sentence and as I settle into a book, I feel it move about from my frontal lobe to the rest of my brain, like a drug with an agenda of calm, trickling out and herding my thoughts together like the sheep that they are. A sigh of the brain, flowing or straight forward, it pushes and leans on different sections of the mind. I love to try to figure out the pattern, even as I’m being informed; where will the break come, the breath and the edge of the cliff, just to be pulled back again, something like a good blow job or the best strip tease. Words have this ability–they have mouths and bodies, fully formed urges and thrusts, you just have to look for it.
I love to read because it distracts me from my own solipsism. It’s very simple to say, “reading takes you away”, but fuck it, it does. There’s a quote on the cover of the book I’m currently reading–The Passage by Justin Cronin: “Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.” It’s true; I’ll be reading away and then suddenly six train stops later and something has disappeared, but I’m not sure if it’s the world, or my terrifying sense of loss. What I have lost and what I could lose; that’s the killer, the monster, the created world borne of bitterness and fear–what I could lose. Think those thoughts and the ordinary world disappears; or more appropriately, the ordinary world becomes unbearable.
Having just reread the author’s note of HST’s The Great Shark Hunt, the idea of taking a gainor out of a 28 story window into a fountain as a final act does have its merits…and its drawbacks. The drawbacks being obvious, but the merits being courage and finality, a strange punctuation, a piece of prose in and of itself, ending in an exclamation point of cracking bones, no less. Such energy in his prose, something like a halting madman tugging on your sleeve, pausing to cough and pull on his cigarette, quietly laughing at the sound of the rocks in his drink and then more knowledge before you have the chance to process the first.
There’s a reason he sat at his typewriter as a young artist and typed the novels of Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald–because the marrow and rhythm of the words are the world. Do you see? Brain massaging.