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.

:’)

You are Precious

Yesterday I worshipped the Lord God Almighty. I was listening to a song whose lyrics state “I sing for joy at the works of your hands”. (Shout to the Lord – Chris TomlinMy heart was filled with such joy as I raised my hands and considered the works of His hands – I thought about the beauty of nature, the miracle of trees and birds and our planet. And then suddenly God’s voice told me, “You are the work of my hands.”

That hit me. That was something else. When I listen to music praising God’s creation, I often think of nature, of the miracle of our solar system, of the grass, of mountain peaks and valleys. But God reminded me that am His creation. And if I am His creation, then I am Precious. There is no shame in singing for joy because I exist.

After this, I read Psalm 49, the title of which in my Bible was “Trusting Money is Foolish.” I therefore was expecting to read a Psalm all about loving God, rather than money. And while this Psalm had a message for both the rich and the poor, verse 7 says,

‘No one can buy back the life of another.

No one can pay God for his own life,

because the price of a life is high.

No payment is ever enough.’

Again, this really opened my ees. No one can buy back the life of another? Really?! Yes, because our lives are worth more than one hundred trillion pounds or dollars. Our lives are worth more than any amount of money. The cynical part of me kicked in. How could this be true? How could this flesh and bone be worth more than all the gold in the world? Of course, it sounds nice to think of a human as worth more than all the money in the world, but how true is that?

As I sat and pondered about how that could possibly ever be trrue, God encouraged me to break down the verse a little. I am precious, yes. But more precious than a million pounds? Okay, but how?

‘What are you?’ God asked me.

‘Made by you,’ I replied.

‘What is money?’ God asked me.

‘Made by men,’ I realised.

And that’s when it hit me. We are more precious than money in God’s eyes, because we are more precious than anything man-made. We are not man-made, we are God-made and God sees us as precious. And if the maker of the universe sees us as such, then we are.

Believe you are precious. So precious the God of the world loves you and wants to know you.

You are precious.

 

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=shout+to+the+Lord+

 

 

 

 

Wasdjihaui hierogerio

This is the other.

Half-eaten meat pastry and soiled bedding

Skin darker than the media lets you see

Mental health skewered by politics

Foreign foreigners foreign foreign

You’ve got to be sensible to be desensitised

Remain sane with

Limbs falling,

Rotting,

Eyes blinded towards hate,

Homophobic

Systems which make them semi-human,

Semi-rated.

Burqas ripped,

Women beat for giving lip,

Women beat for being women

Mass murder as a logical response to rejection

Rape counting in favour of presidential election

We don’t see them

They’re different –

We do see them

They’re disgusting

Not me, not you,

Thank goodness otherwise what would we do?

Brown, bag, beard,

Terrorist scum,

Fearing every newspaper

Trembling at what’s to come

Bomb, brown, bastard,

It’s just a joke

No fire without smoke

What was she wearing?

Make him swear in

He loves Mexicans

Build a wall

Stay away

Die away

Die quietly

but pay for your segregation

Not

My

Business

Be charitable you fool,

Sign petitions you dolt,

March, revolt,

Turn on the never ending wheel

Open wounds, no time to heal

Smile like it’s all okay,

Take instagram photos with that bae

Ignore Eurocentric standards of beauty

We’re all beautiful

Except him

Except me

Except

Keep the kids indoors

There’s creatures on all fours

Wolves howling at the light

Darker than your enemy,

than the shadows of the night

Black, asian, other

Other, other, other

What even is other?

Is it a standard or a measure

To be more than?

This is the other.

Half-eaten meat pastry and soiled bedding,

Drunken maid at bride’s wedding,

ISIS kidnapping and beheading

Children singing, snowing, sledding,

I’m here for questions not answers

No, damnit, I’m here for answers:

There is no other,

My sister, my brother,

There is no other but us.

Sometimes it’s time to stop fighting. They say the view is better from the mountains but why not bury me in the valleys? This earth feels like home. Giving up on a goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tyres because you got one flat. But what about the second setback? The third? The hundreth? What if there are no more tyres to slash? It gets harder before it gets easier, but its easier to live in the now. There is only death or redemption. Ironic the answer to black or white thinking is a black or white threat. The future is a concept; the future doesn’t exist. That’s hopeful. That’s terrifying. If you’re physically fluctuating between opposing fantasies, you will NEVER reach your goal. I want to be awake again. But perhaps I should learn to love the nightmare.