Over my semester break, I rediscovered my love for reading. Particularly of funny books. It’s a hell of a thing. Reading, you know? I do a lot of reading every year. I read thousands upon thousands of pages and churn out limitless lines of bullshit in classes in front of my fellow graduate students.
I consume novels and puke up rhetoric about them without so much as a thought. I am a well-oiled analytical machine. But I don’t love it. Actually, maybe I do. But it’s a different sort of love. The thrill of finding an argument you want to make, and then meticulously building it in your head.
For as much as everything I blog about is off the cuff and retarded and unedited, the academic bullshit I pen is painstakingly agonized over in my brain. The lead-up to a term paper is countless hours driving in my car, staring out the window, and thinking.
Zoning out, forever, into the distance. It’s how I shut down the grind of the world, the din of the noise factories. Websites, Twitter, sports talk radio. It all melts away as I drive and contemplate.
The mechanisms in my mind grind and grind and build. Arguments are put together, just to be ripped down. Unacceptable. Weak. Flimsy. Built up, and then torn down. Over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
Then comes the noodling in notebooks. Outlines of the paper. As I said, meticulous. To the point of paralysis.
When I finally execute the paper, when it is finally done, I feel satisfied. I’ve created something. Sometimes the papers suck anyways. Maybe most of the time. I don’t know what is expected out of students when they’re pinned against a wall and told at Grade Point to vomit up twenty pages. Most of the time, I’d wager, the papers suck.
Other times, my paper doesn’t suck. The last one I penned for my Harlem Renaissance class was particularly enjoyable. I know it doesn’t suck because my girlfriend edited it for me, and she said she liked it a lot. She majored in professional writing, and the first time she edited a paper of mine I thought I was going to punch her in the throat and then dump her. I wasn’t sure the order of those two things, but I was certain they were going to happen.
She doesn’t pull punches and she doesn’t fling shit. Sometimes it’s a “yeah it’s doable”, but this time it was a “this was great to read.”
But I don’t think I loved writing it.
Over this semester break, I’ve rekindled a love affair with the art of escapism. Burying myself in a foreign land, giving over my brainstem and faculities to other people. Take, take, take me away, James Stokoe. William Gibson, my gears are yours. Grant Morrison, AJ Lieberman, and the countless artists with you, let’s do this.
It’s love. It’s refreshing.
I know it isn’t the same thing because of the aforementioned paper. I can’t remember what I was doing, or when it struck me. I realized that I had already begun forgetting the names of characters in the book I dissected for that Harlem class. I had written twenty-five pages on these characters, and they were already bleeding away.
Bleeding into the miasma.
It’s not the same. The ingestion I need to undertake just to stay afloat in graduate classes is immense. Even when I like the book (and I did, this particular book), the sheer mass is overwhelming. Crunching five-hundred pages into your head in five days under duress is not love. Or, perhaps it is love born upon a battlefield of some assort.
If we’re going to continue our conceit, I’ve spent the last five weeks lazily fucking a summer fling on the glimmering shores. Rolling through pages without a care in the world. There has been no mandates, no page requirements, no syllabus-stated due date. ‘Cause no matter how much I enjoy a book during the semester, I always have to have it read by a specific date. My anxiety keeps me aware of this as I try and bomb through the pages.
Faster! Faster! The deadline looms.
It’s a joke, really. That we’re asked to do analysis of a book that we’re having to crunch into our heads at such a high velocity. We need to finish a book in four days and begin to peel back its scabs and analyze it? It can be done. It is done. It will be done by myself in nothing more than six days. But it certainly isn’t ideal.
This winter break has allowed me to remember why the fuck I love books enough to even undertake this boot camp mentality for a good ten months out of the year. A lazy summer (winter) fling, rolling around with funny books and wherever it may take me.