Anyway, on this tentative return to blogging, I just thought to write about the difficulties of reading blocks. The sheer frustration of desperately wanting to find distraction in the pleasure of reading, when for some seemingly inexplicable reason you are unable to concentrate on, or finish a book. I have just endured a month long reading block, that with each title picked up, and then abandoned, my frustration and inability to actually read and finish something seemed to grow. In a way, each new title was condemned to failure even before I started. This particular block seems to have had its origins in general uncertainty about the future. I felt that particular demon lurking some time ago, but at the time I was immersed in an truly wonderful and compelling novel that demanded I finish it. Perhaps, if I had not been so immersed in, and so far into the title, the block would have hit before the book could have taken me into its firm grasp, but this was a book that totally captivated me and by the sheer power of its intelligence distracted me from the smallness of my concerns. Great writing can distract and change us, but only if we able to let it, to be able to fully engage with it. So what was the novel?
Earlier this year I had a weekend in Sydney with B to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition. Kahlo has been the subject of a recent obsession for B so it was opportune that the State gallery of NSW was holding a special exhibition. Any trip away necessarily involves checking out the best local bookshops, since we were in Sydney that meant dropping into Abby's. B has been on the lookout for a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Lacuna, a friend of hers had adamantly recommended it, particularly in light of her Kahlo obsession. So Abbys provided the title and I spent the weekend listening to B enthuse about the novel as she progressed through it. B and I tend to share reading tastes and it is kind of nice that we do. So I to read, Lacuna, which proved rich and rewarding.
I loved Kingsolver's prose and the way she uses symbol and metaphor, everything contained in the novel is set up in the first chapter, which demonstrated exceptional craftsmanship. On so many levels this was a rewarding read; as an historical novel, as an exploration of the role of the artist or writer, as a study of censorship and an exploration of identity and nationalism. It was a totally engaging read, in part, because it was a novel that demanded my full attention. It was not a passive easy read. I sometimes think that I have trouble moving on from such novels and that when I finish a great read like that, I then struggle to engage fully with the next read. After I finished Lacuna I seemed to be utterly incapable of getting into anything new and I tried.
I picked up book after book. Some of the problem might have been connected to format, as several titles were eBooks. I must admit that I still much prefer to hold a book in my hands. I know I am no Luddite, and have been quick to embrace new tech, but I still prefer the sensation of reading a physical book. In the last month I have started so many ebooks but have given up half way through, admittedly they were also books that in one way or another were connected to work, so maybe that also had an impact.