Friday, January 22, 2016

January might be the cruelest month

I've forgotten how to read. I'm actually being serious. I spend so much time on email, I am so addicted to my devices, to screens, that reading has become a challenge. And I'm someone who used to get through two books a week. There is a certain amount of shame attached to this. I'd like to pretend that it isn't the case. I'd like to break on through and tell you that I spent this weekend conquering "A Dance to the Music of Time" by Anthony Powell which I've promised my beloved that I would read with him. The truth is, I'm on page five, and I'm finding the prose very dense. Perhaps I should pick up some Jackie Collins or Jacqueline Susann and just go for it. Perhaps I should ban myself from the phone and the laptop. It scares me. It's not just not reading, it's the state of mind that it puts one in, the dumbing down of one's mind when it's not concentrating on other worlds, other stories, other realities. I buy books and I don't read them. How much reading did I do over Christmas? None. I put the pile of books out and I cracked a couple of them a couple of times. That was it. I am no longer a reader. I can't bear to even say it. I am no longer a reader.

Poetry, for some reason, I can read. Every day I manage to read a poem or two. Poetry still translates the world for me, transforms me.

January, it must be said, is surely the cruelest month. Talk about mixing memory with desire. I can't wait for it to be over. I want the green buds of spring, more birdsong, longer days.

I walked tonight, a little too late. Darkness fell a half hour before we were back, and I had to light my way with a torch (on my phone of course). The dogs were placid and happy and the moon rose over Studio City with a slight rainbow in the dark blue sky. I love being out there on my own with my girls. I love listening to the birds that only sing at dusk, the chirrupy buzz of the freeway in the distance, the owls. I wanted to stop and sit and meditate, but a voice kept saying, is this really a good idea, being out in the dark in the middle of LA, surrounded by serial killers and weirdos. I practised saying "my dog will rip your balls off" but then I thought that sounded a little hysterical, so I calmed my voice to a Lauren Bacall drawl and said "Don't underestimate my dogs. They attack on command." Of course I'm praying all the time that my dogs, who I've spent years teaching not to jump up on strangers, and to be polite when there are guests in the house, instinctively take on their primal roles and try to kill anyone that would harm me. And all the time, the owls are hooting gently in the bare branches of trees, just below Mulholland.

There are turnips in my fridge. My mother and I are so alike. She has swedes she is going to mash for lunch on Sunday when her girlfriends come over. I am dreaming of mashed turnips. Last night I stayed up after a few girlfriends had come for supper because I couldn't find one of my silver pudding spoons. I had eleven. I needed twelve. I washed and dried them, hunted under the chairs, the table, in the bin, in the garbage disposal, was somewhat distraught. It's such a ritual, one I've inherited from my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, to count the silver back into the drawer. And a spoon was missing.  Ned, who's home because he sick, opened the sliding door between the children's bedrooms and the hallway and said, "I've got your teaspoon. You gave it to me with the flan." And thus, like my mother, and her mother before her, I could go to bed feeling happy and resolved, and also delighted to have spent the evening with excellent women. We at chili, and Mexican flan, and Caesar salad made with the whole, light-colored inner leaves of romaine, doused in a dressing of egg, buttermilk, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and lemon, my take on my ex-mother-in-law's Caesar dressing. The buttermilk is in the fridge. It's actually Norwegian kulturmelk and I steal tiny glasses of it all day, as my mother does in the summer house in Norway. It's in my bones, this strange love of weird dairy products.

I miss my love. He is in London and he speaks to me all day long. The thin, silk thread that connects us by a gentle tug on the wrist, exists, and he is aware of it, and he tugs on it, so incredibly gently, just enough for me to know that he is there, all the time. And even when he sleeps I feel them there, next to me. I don't know what this is. It's very unusual and I am very grateful, I know that much. I hear his voice on the end of the phone when I wake up, sometimes even before my tea, and it's deep and kind and gentle and I wonder how I coped with anything before he was there.

And so, because of him, I will battle on with Powell, and I will read the first volume of A Dance To the Music of Time, and I will break this horrible cycle, which I believe comes from anxiety and work, actually, having to know all day long, even in the middle of the night, what is happening in my small, enclosed world, that of Hollywood. I'll break it this weekend. Because he's doing it with me. And that is kinda great, you know?


Lorely Forrester said...

I go through phases of finding it hard to read. Mercifully it is usually just a phase.
I walk with my girls in empty woods on the west coast of Ireland, but having lived in London for so many years, I still find myself wondering what they would do if someone unsavoury appeared! I hope I don't have to find out. And your missing spoon made me smile, as, although I don't count mine back into the drawer, I had a similar experience only recently.
I hope your love returns soon.
I enjoy reading your blog.

richard said...

I feel your pain. I'm in the same leaky boat. Many people are. We should take back our books, our reading. Reading fiction made me who I am, whatever that means. One thing that has helped me somewhat. I've become FAR more selective. I don't have the room for taking many chances -- which is tragic. But Marilynne Robinson, yes. Jenny Offill, yes. Saunders, yes. Etc.

Marcheline said...

I also thought I had lost the ability/will to read. HOWEVER.... what saved me was a website called "Goodreads"... you must look it up! You enter in all the books you have read, and you rate them, and this website (which has an ENORMOUS database of books) will suggest books that you might like, based on the ones you've already said you liked. And you know what? IT WORKS! I have read scads of books that I've really enjoyed since using that site. If you have friends (or boyfriends) who also read, you can list them as friends on the site and see what they're reading and what they thought of the books they read. It's really wonderful!