Confessions of a Porter Library addict
I have kept a book log since the early 1970s and I've always wished I'd begun it when I was a child. I've read as many as 100 books a year, but these days I'm down to 35 or 40. My eyes get tired. I prefer literary fiction, but I read everything. I love a good memoir, history, and I especially love poetry.
If I were on a desert island and could only have one master of each major art form as companions they would be Emily Dickinson, Mozart and Monet.
The greatest novel I've ever read is James Joyce's "Ulysses." But there are so many others very close to it. Such as William Faulkner's "The Reivers" and "The Sound and the Fury" and Yasunari Kawabata's "Snow Country." Sometimes I am reading more than one book at a time. For instance, presently I am reading a collection of poetry by Jack Gilbert, Salman Rushdie's memoir "Joseph Anton" and"The Aeneid" by Virgil. My secret is to read only one of them on any given day so not to lose context.
In my opinion, the greatest single excerpt out of a literary novel is the ending of "Ulysses" where Molly – a very naughty girl – tells us that she loves her husband in spite of everything. She is in bed alone, waiting for Bloom to get home. This is sheer prose-poetry! An image of Penelope waiting for Odysseus. I remember reading it for the first time and realizing that a writer does not "tell" everything in his story but leaves some things up to the reader to figure out. For instance, was Homer's Queen Penelope true to King Odysseus for those ten long years? Or was she an ancient Greek "Molly," whom I was beginning to like?
A common error some readers make is not paying attention word by word, page by page, and therefore missing a point, perhaps even the main point of a story. Another error, as I say above, is assuming the story is being told with nothing left out. In a good novel there is much more than might be apparent. Things are left out!
Even when I don't like a novel I keep on to the end for the love of words!
And I absolutely disdain speed-reading and those audio CD books. But I fully accept and understand that a lot of people disagree with me. For me, the sounds of words are so very wonderful, but not enough; I must touch them with my eyes.
I love that old literary critic and curmudgeon, Harold Bloom, but he speed-reads. And if I ever meet him I'll give him hell.
In my old age I've become friendly with John Cage, a delightful fellow indeed who loved sounds of all sorts as I love words of all sorts. Often I think of my first trip to New York when I was a young man. I opened up my window on the eighteenth floor of the Sloane House YMCA on 36th Street and 8th Avenue and listened to the magic music of the city.
Reading can be like that. Words are like that! Reading is about searching for wisdom and pleasure. Reading is sadness and delight.
I am a writer. I have had two novels published and I have written over 400 poems. My novels are "Zohar and the Fox-girl" and "The Fox with the White Scarf."