The strangest reading slump ever aka the war on narrative

This is a cry for help. I am having the weirdest (non) reading slump I’ve ever experienced in my life.

If you don’t know what a reading slump is, it is basically a phase in life where you no longer feel like reading.  You start a book and can’t seem to finish it. A reading slump is ruthless. It can last for months, or if you let it, years. It doesn’t care whether the book is excellent. It seeks…restlessness and anarchy! For an avid reader, reading slumps are annoying/stressful. (I went into a year-long reading slump during my undergrad, which was a bit awkward seeing as I was doing a BA in Creative Writing).

The trick is usually to keep on trying to read, and reading different things. If you usually read YA Fantasy, switch it up to a contemporary romance, or a crime novel, etc. It excites your brain which very often just wants variety.

Since January, I’ve been feeling very apathetic about the books I was reading. They weren’t awful, don’t get me wrong, but they just weren’t holding my attention. I tried to read a variety, but everything just annoyed me. Irrationally even angered me. I had no idea what I liked to read any more, no genre to comfortably slot into, and that scared (and kind of still does scare) me.

And then my friend loaned me a copy of Optic Nerve by Catherine Walsh. And then I began thinking about House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, and then I began reading more and more books on racial history for my MA and then the nail hit (the pin dropped/insert random maxim here)

I bloody hate narrative.

I am going through the WEIRDEST reading phase whereby I cannot STAND narrative. Who cares about carefully constructed plots? Slaved over characters? Neatly pigeonholed themes? Solutions wrapped and tied up with a nauseating bow?

Not me.

Give me drama, give me despair, but let me think. Or don’t let me think. It’s all the same.

Which is why this is so strange. It’s not a reading slump per se, because I can and do want to read. But it feels like a reading slump because it’s characterised by me looking at 98% of the books on my shelf and thinking “ughhhh” regardless of it’s artistic merit.

Optic Nerve by Catherine Walsh is an epic poem. The words seem randomly jumbled together (and at points, are):

High wide

hand

            understand

away

          ancient gardens

wake up

                happening

Head full of

       immensities

world small

again

expansive

stretchy

 encompassing

 

sketchy

      life

 

But I love this. My brain didn’t have to think – and you know what? It didn’t want to. I enjoyed reading words for words’ sake. Letting the rhythm, and sometimes non rhythm, of the words wash over me, soothe my narrative-tired brain, and allowing me to take in words for nothing more or less than what they are. This poetry book has made me think more deeply about issues than other narrative-based books. I can’t even tell you what it is about, but I can tell you what it made me think about at certain points.

Words in any sort of logical, chronological format are really annoying. Too traditional. NEXT.

It’s so much more interesting and stimulating to have words splashed all over the page, sporadic, interrupted by an “incorrect” use of grammar. Total linguistic anarchic feast for the eyes and the mind and your soul.

I am aware, by the way, that I’m becoming that sort of weird arts enthusiast who walks into an abstract expressionist exhibition and claims to find depth in a blank sheet of paper with a single ink drop on it, but hey, someone’s gotta be that girl.

Also, let’s talk about cultural theory and non-fiction in general. This is so much more interesting than anything else at the moment. I think the reason I’m enjoying reading so much theory at the moment is because

  1. It’s fascinating. So many theories. So much knowledge out there. I’m hungry for it
  2. These non-fiction books aren’t telling me a story and I really appreciate that.

This is very much at odds with what I do as a writer. I love to write fiction. I LOVE creating a narrative. As a writer, I love and appreciate narrative so much. It’s not only my interest but my skill and my passion.

Which is why this is the weirdest reading slump ever. I’m enjoying it but I’m also wary of the fact that I need to be careful and not let this last for a year. I should, as a writer, be reading fiction too!

But then this takes us back to House of Leaves by Danielewski, which I CANNOT wait to finish reading. (I had to place it on the backburner due to being busy) but it’s fiction in a way that won’t annoy me because not only is the story so unique, but it is an example of ERGODIC literature, in which the information is presented in a unique and totally mind-boggling format, making you question your idea of what a novel can and can’t be.

I end this totally ironically sporadic blogpost with a recommendation: Everyone should read House of Leaves. Everyone.

:’)

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