Thursday, January 19, 2012

the lost verve in reading

It is gone, I think. That fiery wanting to finish whatever you’ve got to do just to pull that one book from the shelf, a box, the bed, inside a drawer, and crack it open to get immersed in its milieu, its characters’ psyches, or simply its wondrous wrought imagination. In my elementary days, there is the Harry Potter series by Jo Rowling. In high school, there are Jonathan Stroud’s The Bartimaeus Trilogy and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In college, there are Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, and Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi.

Typically an enumeration of commercial literature in their respective times, but this is indeed the handful of books that have caught me in a hook like pleasurable traps of the mind. After the education years, I find myself speculating are the books available today repellent to my taste? Or has my taste gotten so much low and ancient it repels the books available today? Or have I just lost the interest in reading? I fear for all three, of course. Partiality, at times, must be feared.

Yes, there are the short story collections Feast and Famine by Rosario Cruz Lucero and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. There is Emma Donoghue’s Room. Maybe even Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado, for its ambitious take on steering as far away as possible from the tropes of what represents a work of Philippine literature. The premise of each calls for vigilant curiosity, and I have gladly taken the demands of the text. There are hits and misses but nevertheless they are all interesting.

But none of these has offered me that pull, that incessant voice in the head, that gravity synonymous of what a crazed lover possesses for his object of affection. I have tackled them on and off, stretch each for days on end, unlike those that I have read in my school years where the pages fly by.

Recently, I have expected to reawaken this sensation with the massively publicized doorstopper that is Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. His short stories are fascinating, and many I know religiously adore his previous novels. But like many expectations, it is but a spark from a little matchstick. The interest comes and then in it goes, instantly. The tome now sits next to a pile of other scorned books.

Aside from the three speculations that are mentioned earlier, I come up with other factors, or should I say, excuses: Is it time? Anxiety? Diminishing attention span? Distraction? Exhaustion? With television, cinema, internet, smartphone, and a slew of other technological advancements, have I been culturally desensitized, becoming callous, mechanical?

The hypothesis is a bitter pill: It could be everything.

I guess I simply miss the symbiotic devotion that comes with the activity: I have to read, the book has to be read. All is well. With no clear answers to the questions that have bombarded me as early as six this morning, I might as well pick up another book and see where it takes me.

And I hope it would be a joyful ride.

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