Usually I think of winter as the time to dig into long novels. Most of the lengthiest books I’ve ever read I undertook between November and March, and though I read Dead Souls in late December (and liked it a lot) since then I’ve found that I can’t make it past the second chapter of any book longer than 400 pages. I put a lot of weight on how well or how poorly I’m reading (and writing) as a measurement of my overall mental state, so it actually does worry me when reading doesn’t come easily.

A friend of mine said to me today that she’s been failing to get through The Pickwick Papers, and she thinks this is partially due to the fact that it’s just not the kind of book one can read ten pages of at a time. There’s definitely some comforting truth to this—some books you’re meant to be immersed in, sixty-plus pages at a time. To read them in three page sips then, is to miss the immersion altogether. Even I can’t usually find time in my day to read for a steady hour and a half.

Another explanation might be that I’m just trying to read the wrong six hundred page books, but after my discard pile stacked up to my knees, I began to assume there was something more at the root of my inability to read at length than merely poor selection.

Right now, I’d say the problem is February. But if this is still going on in March, I suppose I’ll have to reassess.

The upside of not being able to read anything that weighs more than eight ounces has been that I’ve been racing through some shorter fiction, essays, and even some plays. I find that when I’m struggling to make it past the first two paragraphs of anything, I return to my favorite writers because I have faith their books will take me in—that they’ll both shelter and engross me—so over the past two weeks I’ve gone back to Vonnegut, Murdoch, Shakespeare and Calvin and Hobbes.

I’ll be writing a bit more about these books shortly—stay tuned for posts about slim paperbacks numbers one, two and three (with four and five in the offing).


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