Sunday, August 15, 2010

Time Enough at Last

In this1959 Twilight Zone episode starring Burgess Meredith and written by Rod Serling, based on a short story by Lynn Venable , Henry Bemis, a bookish bank clerk, can't find enough time to read. He reads constantly, nearly every waking minute. On his lunch hour, he reads of the H-bomb while down in the vault of the bank. It goes off suddenly, leaving him as the last man on Earth. In the ruins of a sporting goods store he finds a gun and considers doing away with himself … but when he catches sight of the remains of a public library, he has a reason to stay alive.

Anyone who has seen or Googled this classic episode will know it ended very badly indeed for Bemis, whose story, start to (literally) shattering finish, speaks very deeply to me, a lifelong nearsighted voracious reader, and not a little anti-social. “All the books I’ll ever want! All the time I need and want!” Who among us hasn’t dreamed of such an opportunity? These words have been much on my mind in the first weeks since I left a 9 to 5 job to focus on writing, art-making and generating enough income that I can grow old never having to work for (and by) anyone but myself again.

Odilon Redon Le Liseur

After I quit my job, I read a novel of a few hundred pages. It took a few days, not several weeks -- or months -- and it felt great. I realized that for too many years I have been doing most of my reading in small rushed stolen moments, on buses, in waiting rooms, between interruptions during my alleged lunch hour, in the few minutes before falling asleep at night, online, in magazines, and in books I picked up so seldom, I always had to re-read back from the point I left off, before I could move forward again. Sisyphean task at best. And all this time my desire to acquire books refused to align itself with the reality of my reading habits. The ranks of the unread multiplied and haunted me from their dedicated bookcase in my bedroom until I finally had to box them up and put them out of sight and mind in storage in the basement.

Jean-Jacques Henner La Liseuse

There is nothing so luxurious and gratitude-making as being able to lie on a couch with enough energy, time and peace of mind to enter completely the world a writer has generously created for you with words. To proceed with wonder and caution at the beginning, feeling your way through unfamiliar territory, pick up speed as the plot and characters develop, and then linger towards the end because you have become so attached to this world you must leave too soon, you want to make the last hours of your stay last as long as possible. This is a great gift – to give and to receive. Today I’m adding a feature to my blog called “What I’m Lucky to be Reading” as a constant reminder of how fortunate I am to have time enough at last. Not to mention (inside joke) shatterproof eyeglasses.

My library, section D-H

The first featured book is one that has been eyeing me for a few weeks from my new shelf of the unread, which quickly established itself in place of the collection now languishing unseen in the basement. Portuguese author and Nobelist Jose Saramago, who has now deprived us of his unique wit and wisdom, worldliness and wordiness by being so unkind as to cease living , has long been a favorite writer, so when his collection recording a year of personal observations appeared in translation, I snatched it up. Little did I know that “The Notebook” was actually comprised of blog postings, a medium I thought neither of us would ever embrace. I love perfect timing.


  1. Oh my....what kindred spirits we are!!!! I have spent my working life (that is income-making life) in libraries...and am truly a lover of books....surrounded by them on all sides, most of them still unread, but that doesn't stop my desire for acquiring new ones! I too recently left my job (this time a very unhappy part-time job) to live my life as an artist and hopefully to make a go of it with MissouriBendStudio on etsy! And I love that feature on your blog with the book you are reading! Saramago...yes! I'll stop for now, but will look forward to your future posts and catching up on earlier ones!

    Thanks so much for getting in touch and following my blogs!


  2. Hah! 23 years as a library assistant, here! Not counting the time taken off between jobs...but the reason I got into it (being connected to books) has slowly drained out of the profession it seems. I finally got tired of being a drone in a cubicle using my hands only to enter information about books and evermore disconnected from the books themselves. It has always been an uneasy balance between earning a living and doing what I love - will try to make it work this time! I wish you success on your parallel journey!

  3. Gabriella.
    I saw your favorite books in your profile.
    This is very interesting because I love
    almost the same!
    Go to an older post of mine. The poem
    "Der Panther" by Rainer Maria Rilke..
    See you.