Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Good Read is Hard to Find Time For

The Reader by Honoré Daumier

In one of my earliest blog posts, called “Time Enough at Last,” now occupying the number 5 spot of my most visited entries, probably owing more to its searchable references to a certain Twilight Zone episode than any other appeal, I wrote about the newly rediscovered pleasure of reading, occasioned by my no longer having a 9 to 5 desk job occupying all my mental and physical time and energy. 

 The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh

Sadly, it didn’t take long for my new job of self-employed artist, which it turns out demands at least ten times the time and energy of a traditional 40 hour workweek, even if you’re blessedly allowed to do a lot of it without taking a shower or getting dressed or having to deal with life forms other than your cat, to put my life as a reader back into the dim corners of stolen moments after its brief holiday in the dappled sunlight of early retirement.

 The Pensive Reader by Mary Cassatt

Reading. I miss it. I sit at my computer lately enjoying blogs by other people who collect, consume, even create books, and it has the feel of peering into the window of a warm cosy establishment I am always meaning to visit but seem to come upon only when I am hurrying elsewhere. There is never enough free time. There will probably be even less of it on hand before there is more of it. Clearly I need to go beyond the available supply, and when I can’t find the time, make it.

 Young Girl Reading by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

As a motivating force, I gathered the images for this post from some of my favorite paintings of readers. Readers seem to be a popular topic among artists. Even when the pose has been staged for the purposes of the work, there is something about the act of reading that is both introspective and expansive, fully focused and utterly free. We are drawn into a good read away from the world outside, deeper into ourselves and the lives we lead inside our imagination, but in that detachment we often find ourselves ironically less isolated and more connected to both who we are and how we relate to the world. We emerge from the experience relaxed and revitalized. Outside our windows the sun has risen or set, but meantime in the pages of the book we have not looked away from or let go of for hours, whole histories have come and gone. It’s not about escape, but discovery.

 A Listening Thing by William Michaelian

Today a book arrived in the mail. Many books on my shelves languish unread. They have been around for too long and know me too well to hope for that sad state of affairs to change any time soon. Quite possibly they aren’t good reads at all or perhaps I would have found or made my way to them by now. But to this new book I owe the kind of good behavior and attitude one would give to a new acquaintance of unexpected quality, in those first few animated conversations that let you know that the friendship to come is a different thing altogether, deserving, rewarding, enduring, possibly even lifechanging, and definitely not to be set aside for another time, a better time, when there is more time. I scanned the descriptive text on the back cover. Mr. Michaelian, you had me at “romantic misfit and underground man.” The time is now.

 The Reader by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Tomorrow I am going to shut the lid of my laptop and in the privacy of my living room with no other obligations or persons permitted to interrupt or intervene, no apologies, and a comfortable pillow at my back, read “A Listening Thing.” It doesn’t matter when and how I finish, as long as I begin it. Too often in prioritizing what we come to believe are the essentials in our lives, we deny ourselves the very things that sustain and protect us, every bit as much as food, clothing, shelter. A good read is not a luxury or a leisure activity but a necessity. For the timely reminder of this neglected truth, I have this book and its author to thank.


  1. dear Gabriella,
    this post is wonderful, due to the content of truth that it loads!
    The importance of giving the pleasure of a good read ... and all the good, that gives us, should be prioritized in our daily lives, yes!
    and I loved your choices to illustrate the text,
    very beautiful paintings, which urge us to some good reading immediately!
    It was great to read this 'call' for reading!
    “A Listening Thing”, promises!
    a big big hug!

    ps: ... I feel that translation is awful! ...

  2. Enjoy your stolen day reading. I had a look at the link, and this book and its author sound made for you. A fellow writer, artist and poet. I suspect you will have much to say to each other in the privacy of your living room.

    I would be bereft without books. I read for so many reasons, to educate me, to amuse, to escape, to share lives and places I will never see.

    I really, really hope that the promise of this book is met for you.

  3. Gabriella, you had me at “Reading. I miss it.” But when I read what follows and saw your picture of A Listening Thing, and then read further still, I knew I was receiving yet another gift from a very special friend. Coming here, as long as I’ve known you, I’ve always been on the grateful receiving end. And with this post that continues. You know, of course, how I feel about books and reading. Your belief in and understanding of the power of words makes me wish I could learn to read all over again. And really, like living and seeing, that’s something we can do, and must do, each and every time we pick up a book. We owe it to ourselves and to those voices we are about to hear. How lucky I am that my book is in your hands.

  4. I was in a book convention on Monday and I believe I saw some posters series of "The Readers", very good to have them placed on Study rooms or Library !

  5. Gabriella,
    This is a great way to get back to
    a read. We are so looking forward
    to William's book as well.


  6. Good morning, Denise! I'm glad you enjoyed this post and the images of readers! Perhaps we should officially declare this INTERNATIONAL GOOD READING DAY. I am having my morning tea and will soon leave this computer behind and begin William's book but I wanted to say hello and thank you for your comment. Baci!

  7. William, your comment makes me smile. It's been so long, I think today with your book I WILL actually be learning to read all over again! Or at least that kind of reading that is a full engagement, and goes beyond words on the page. Thanks again for making this experience possible!

  8. Wong - you're right, these paintings of readers really are very powerful and should be used more often! Perhaps more than words, the image of a reader makes you want to find that same tranquility and engagement. Good advertizing for books! Thanks for your comment, my friend.

  9. Robert - I've found that every book comes to us at just the right time, and I can think of none better than this one, both for its author and its own particular origins and the circumstances of its reappearance - it is already an old friend and I haven't even spent time with it yet! All the best to you.

  10. EC - I'm glad you wish me well, me dear, because I have you to, thank, for these guilt pangs about my lack of reading lately! From reading your posts, I know what books mean to you, it is just the same for me, but somehow I let that part of me slip away. No more. Be well, you, and read onward!

  11. Greetings to you, Andressa! Your comment means a lot to me, especially now that I have looked at your blog and see so many names of favorite writers and artists there! Many thanks.

  12. I spent a good year being too busy to be able to read, and man, did I become depressed and stale. So now I read in bed, even if it's just for half an hour, before I go to sleep. And I go to sleep feeling like I've accomplished at least one very selfish, incredibly pleasurable thing just for myself that day :)

  13. Hey Phoenix - I was just thinking tonight after luxuriating in William's novel for hours - and in fact just finishing it while lying in bed! - that I need to follow your practice of making sure to read at least half an hour a day! I used to do this long ago, it was how I got through Proust and War & Peace and suchlike weighty tomes, and it felt the way you described it - something just for me, an accomplishment aside from whatever else happened that day, and way better than entering a dreamstate with the nightly news as my last mental engagement! Thanks for reinforcing this for me! Good reading, and good night, my friend.

  14. This reminds me that it's been way too long since I read my last book. Reading time used to come so easily but not anymore. Thanks for inspiring me to make time. Great post and I love the paintings!

  15. Dear Gabriella, i had some catching up to do here reading some previous posts( just recognized you totally in the previous one;)) With no pressure and only following your own heart you did make a beautiful book indeed.

    And about reading, oh yes, it is no luxury,i like the feeling to be totally absorbed by a book, to meet people and places, get to know them and their emotions, their thoughts and motivations and by doing so often get more clarity in my own. Books are gates to so many different worlds and you only have to sit down and read, it's so simple and so wonderful.
    Enjoy your book dear friend! x

  16. I'm glad to read from the responses above that you did manage to steal your day for reading; and that it was great! It feels like the ultimate indulgence; but it is so important...I read every day (mostly at night, in bed) and it really is the best ''me" moment of my day! I hope you regain your reading habits, and the joys and pleasures and absolute soul-food within those covers! Have a safe weekend...

  17. Hi James! I'm so glad to pass along the urge to make time for reading! I made up for months of neglect yesterday by clearing a whole day to consume an entire novel, but hope to get a more regular pattern in place now. It's like anything else that takes time but is ultimately good for you - hard to start but once you get it going you wonder what took you so long! Many thanks for your comment.

  18. Dear Renilde, thanks so much for stopping by - I know you have a lot of catching up to do after your holidays, so I do appreciate your kind comments! Everything you say about spending time with a good book is true - it is just as enriching and rewarding as a good friendship, perhaps moreso! I finished William's book last night and I already wish I could meet it and enjoy everything it had to say to me all over again! Be well, my dear.

  19. Fiona - isn't it funny that the word "indulgence" keeps coming up! Reading does often feel that way - stolen, pleasurable, even selfish moments one almost feels guilty setting aside other more important obligations for. But if everyone made time for some daily reading I think we'd all be better for it, which hardly seems selfish - or a luxury activity - at all. Thanks for your comment, my friend - you are such a great champion of the book in all its forms and functions, it really means a lot! Stay well.

  20. The only time I get to read is when all are in bed and all is done, then I open a book (which I've been reading for three months now) and get about ten minutes into it before I'm out too. :{
    Hence the three months and still going!

  21. TB - thanks for the comment! As we in the Northeast begin the day wondering when the power will go off thanks to Irene, there may be some more reading in my near future - for lack of any working electronics! I'm glad you are at least still going with your bedtime book. Keep at it! All the best to you.

  22. wow I didn't see this post coming and lost it.
    what a fantastic choice for the images , only masterpieces.

    good to see the William's book there !

    hugs !

  23. Hey Caio - I'm glad you found my post - better late than never! Yes, these paintings really are masterpieces. I talked to my mother after she read this post and all she kept saying was how beautiful the paintings were! Not one word about what a good WRITER her daughter is, hah!

    William's book is also a masterpiece. It's good to have such multi-talented blogfriends! have a great week, my friend.

  24. Gabriella....of course, you are a woman after my own heart. Yes, reading is a activity of discovery and not one of escape, despite how it may appear. I've put reading back on my daily priority list and my life feels much better for it.....more creative, richer, deeper. Bravo to you....close the lid of that laptop and free yourself to engage in the magic! Cheers to you dear!

  25. Patti, as you can tell by the speed with which I am answering your comment, today is a computer catchup day! I had a great time devoting an entire day to a good book last week, and I am right now trying to decide upon my next book and whether I want to try to read a little every day or do a weekly day just for hours of reading. Too indulgent? Am also going to make room in the schedule for regular meditation, another former habit I've sadly lost. I love how we are always trying to shake things up and get them back to a good balanced routine that gets both the business and home chores and artwork done and also leaves time for our own well-being! I'll keep at it if you will. maybe one day we'll figure out the secret! All the best to you.

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