Reading Gaps: Mine, and Yours?

Because of all the time I spent trying to promote my new literary-trivia book during the past six weeks, I ironically managed to read only one novel (Jorge Amado’s interesting Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands).

That’s not a good thing for a literature blogger. 🙂 Also, the near-total absence of fiction negatively affected my mood (as did the various new outrages from America’s mean-spirited Republican leaders). Novels can be fun, relaxing, exciting, educational, and/or take you to “another place.” Suddenly, for the first time since a previous reading gap a couple of decades ago, I wasn’t getting much of that.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, to quote Joni Mitchell.

But I’m now getting back to reading more fiction again — starting with Fanny Burney’s 1778 novel Evelina, which I’m in the middle of. One highlight of that often-funny book is the hilarious way English and French characters fling insults at each other. But there’s also deeper stuff about a woman’s place in society, the complexity of relationships, family, country life vs. London life, and more.

It’s fascinating to experience any kind of life at that time through the eyes of a female author. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of 18th-century novels — Voltaire’s Candide, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, etc. — but, up until now, none by women, for the simple reason that there weren’t a whole of published books by them back then. Rigid gender roles, sexism, patriarchy, and all that — which of course persisted into the 19th century, yet we thankfully still got Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, and other revered 1800s female authors.

One can definitely see the 1752-born Burney’s influence on Austen, who took her Pride and Prejudice title from a phrase in Fanny’s Cecilia novel. Other interesting facts (outlined in a chapter of my literary-trivia book): Burney wrote four novels and eight plays, kept a journal for 72 years (from 1768 until her death in 1840), worked in the court of King George III from 1786 to 1790, and underwent a harrowing mastectomy in 1811.

The next novels in my queue: Donna Tartt’s first book The Secret History (I loved her third novel The Goldfinch and mostly loved her second novel The Little Friend) and then Dream Palace by Amanda Moores, who happens to be the wife of a very well-read regular commenter here — jhNY.

What have been your experiences (if any) with reading gaps? Why did you read little or no fiction for a period of time? How you did you feel about that? What got you back to reading fiction?

Here’s a review of, and a video interview about, my new literary-trivia book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

Speaking of books, fellow WordPress blogger M.C. Tuggle has written a new “modern fantasy” novel titled The Genie Hunt. I haven’t read it myself, but if you want to learn more about it, click here.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column, about my congressman’s awful vote for Trumpcare, is here.

111 thoughts on “Reading Gaps: Mine, and Yours?

  1. Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon Do you stay in your safe space or Risk it all to be happy? Lost of droll humor and witty one sentence book reviews.

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  2. When I was a young idiot/aspiring author, I refused to read living authors for fear that I would be accused to be derivative.

    I’m trying to fill this gap by reading literary journals and reaching out to writers who can teach me a helluva lot more than I could learn on my own.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Tony! I also went through an avoid-other-books “phase” when I was trying to write a novel many years ago. But, as you know, it definitely helps to read all kinds of authors, even with the risk of being derivative. Being derivative can be a helpful, temporary step toward finding one’s own voice.

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    • Most of the jobs I held as an aspiring musician/songwriter type were so low-level that the radio, loud, was nearly always on– as was the hit music of the mo. Exposed me sufficiently to the passing show that I had no worries of missing out on the doings of my contemporaries.

      Most of what I heard wasn’t very good, and most was derivative of what had hit for the most successful. What I learned: It’s amazing how much of what you passively hear will leak out into your fingers at solo time, unbidden. And it takes real work away from the hits of the day to make certain your influences aren’t everyone else’s, after which it gets harder to get gigs, since you don’t really sound like everyone else.

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      • I hear you, jhNY. Outside influences do seep into our consciousnesses and our fingers. And there IS the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t factor of not being totally derivative yet not being TOO original.

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    • “I’m all gaps!” — funnily said, Joseph. 🙂

      I hear you — life gets very busy, and it can be hard to read as much as we want. 😦 In your case, one of the things keeping you busy is researching and writing your excellent blog!

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  3. I read a little daily, when at one time I reader daily for hours, out of books. But I read news sites for a couple of hours every day now. In consideration of my mental health, I should read books as much as I read news sites– and the reverse. There have been periods of my life when I read less of everything than I do now, but in those periods I probably filled the hours I had devoted to reading to music, listening and playing.

    I have not read anything book-length of the non-fiction variety, beyond a few biographies of jazz musicians, in some long time, the last such book coming to mind being “The Botany of Desire”, which concerned plants– apples, potatoes, tulips and marijuana– and their strategies, as species, to spread themselves via our enthusiasm for their properties. Reading for pleasure, as I do, one finds it wherever it leads, and mostly, that pursuit leads me to world literature, and detective fiction with literary aspirations.

    Most nights, I watch teevee– political stuff , old movies on TCM and PBS costume detective drama, with a bit of astrophysics for dummies and Attenborough voice-over nature shows, not to mention the NY Yankees.

    I also have a pretty good collection of art books, which I will marvel at and moon over from time to time, having just enough talent in the visual arts to be amazed at the prowess of the greats.

    I have devoted myself almost exclusively to art and matters of art for a lifetime, and have realized lately that I know the world, such as I know it, largely through art– which is to say, at a remove.

    But I have always read a little at least. So, no reading gaps to speak of. Living gaps? Very possibly just one, lifelong, punctuated periodically, despite my best efforts, by the intrusions of quotidian reality.

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    • Thanks, jhNY, for that info on your reading habits and other entertainment choices. You are using your time wisely (and it’s almost impossible to resist spending some time each day keeping up with the Trump car wreck).

      My ratio of current-events reading to novel reading has probably flipped from 30/70 to 70/30 since November. Curse you, Trump!

      And, like you, most of my book-reading is fiction, with the very occasional nonfiction — usually books written by friends.

      Glad you’ve had no reading gaps of any significance!

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      • I guess I took the week’s assignment literally, and I guess there really wasn’t much reason to write this up, since I can list no real gaps in my reading history. But in thinking about the topic, i realized that my life has mostly been spent in art, not in living. “Experience is the school for fools” was an expression out of the 18th century I took to my heart, and I was and am happy to see the world vicariously, so long as the view delighted, enlightened, or at least entertained. Meanwhile…

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          • I enjoyed this exchange very much, if I’m reading it correctly. I was watching “Jeopardy” with Bill last night as we usually do, and one of the clues was of my favorite artist, Goya — specifically “The Third of May, 1808.” I had the good fortune to see this and other Goya works at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and I’ve never been as affected by a piece of art as this one, as well as his “The Second of May, 1808.” The only other thing I remember about our two trips to this museum is that my girlfriends and I went to the café for a glass of wine, and one of their glasses literally exploded (no one was hurt, by the way). This all happened back in 1969, when the three of us were on a 9 week visit to Europe, the best trip of my life. I feel like I should now break out into song, Bryan Adams’ hit about “The Summer of 69” and “those were the best days of my life.” 🙂 We went to many great museums, including The Louvre, but my favorite was by far, the Prado. I just remembered a visit to the Uffizi museum in Florence, which was going great, until we realized that there was a very large number of Italians that were outside, protesting against the US and NATO. We were lucky enough to meet up with a group of protesters that took us under their wing, gave us a communist flag pin, and escorted us out of the museum.

            I felt compelled last night to pull put my huge and very heavy 6th Edition of “History of Art” by the Jansons, which was very expensive but so beautiful. I think it’s the one used in Art History classes, at least of one of my friends who was an art major back in the late 60’s. I decided last night that I need to get back to reading more about art, mythology, flora and fauna, and history. I think I mentioned that my mom had quite a few books about art, so I’ve plenty to read and study if I can get disciplined and motivation to do so.

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            • Kat Lib, those are great/interesting memories, well described!

              Goya IS amazing. Is the Prado also where Picasso’s amazing “Guernica” is exhibited? If so, I visited that museum during my 1985 stay in Madrid. The memory is a little fuzzy…

              Also, during other trips, I greatly enjoyed the Louvre and the Uffizi. Sounds like those protesters were very nice people!

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              • For some reason, Dave, I always get confused by “Guernica” and I associate it with Goya as opposed to Picasso, which makes no sense whatsoever. However, the Picasso work is exhibited in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, also in Madrid. I honestly don’t remember whether we went there or not, but I’ve got a feeling that after spending two days in the Prado, we would not have made it to a different museum. As to The Louvre, I think I was most impressed by the beautiful grounds surrounding it, rather than any specific painting, yes even including The Mona Lisa.

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                • Thanks for that information, Kat Lib! I guess I didn’t see the Prado. I was only in Madrid for maybe three days (including a day trip to Toledo), after which I spent more than a week in the wonderful Granada and Seville.

                  I agree — the grounds of The Louvre ARE beautiful.

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              • Re Picasso’s “Guernica”: I had a thought about it recently, inspired by the range of color (or lack) in the work, which had always bothered me– consider the painting not as a painting of an incident out of the bombing itself, but rather, as a painting of a photograph of the incident in a newspaper. Makes it an ironic commentary on the simultaneous normalizing by format of sensationalist journalism and the insatiable blood-hunger of its international audience, and less a statement on the actual suffering from the attack itself, despite the painting’s apparent subject matter, since it is viewed at remove, through the tabloid lens.

                Of course, the uses that the press and politics found for “Guernica” is likewise ironic, if I’m right.

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                • That’s very interesting, jhNY. I guess unless Picasso was there when the bombing happened, what you say is totally plausible. I’m actually not a huge fan of Picasso, but I do find “Guernica” powerful and effective.

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            • By coincidence, only yesterday I bought a book (used) “Goya and the Satirical Print in England and on the Continent, 1730-1850)” by Reva Wolf(1991), wherein comparisons are made between themes and compositions of illustrated satire in mostly English prints( such as by Hogarth and Rowlandson and others) that also appear in the works of Goya, mostly his etchings. Beyond these items as artistic inspiration, they also inspired Goya because he saw them as products of a true freedom of artistic expression, warts and all.

              “Anglomania possessed the minds of the French at the end of the eighteenth century: all the fashions, styles, manners, and even extravagances of the English, were foolishly imitated in Paris…this vogue, like many others, was passed to us from the French.”–Pedro Estala, 1805.

              I was awre of the high interest in matters of English rights and parliamentary democracy among the French after our own revolution, but had never thought such interest might also extend beyond politics and into matters of taste and style, and beyond the borders of France, to the Spanish!

              I’ve got a book containing all of Goya’s etchings, and it’s been fun to see them again in this light, in which I admit, I had not considered them.

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              • I just finished reading through one of my mother’s books, a very slim paperback on Goya as part of the Barnes & Noble Art Series. She bought quite a lot of similar series; this particular one on Goya was published in 1961 selling for 75 cents. There are so many different periods of his life as an artist, and he was still working until his death at 82. Included in this book are quite few of his etchings, which I didn’t remember or didn’t care for as much as his paintings. However, he worked until the day he died – one of his last works is a pencil sketch of an old man walking with difficulty with sticks that has the caption “I Am Still Learning.” I love this so much, as well as his last female portrait of “Milkmaid of Bordeaux.”

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                • “One of his last works is a pencil sketch of an old man walking with difficulty with sticks that has the caption “I Am Still Learning.””– a revealing detail, and even beautiful.

                  On the chance you might not have seen a description of the place and its fantastic (but very dark– in every sense) interior, here is a link to an article about the house Goya transformed with paint in his later years.
                  https://www.horrorpalace.com/francisco-goya-black-paintings-pinturas-negras/

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                  • Thanks, jhNY, I had read in my little book about Goya of his “Black Paintings,” although I don’t think the published book I was reading had copies of any of them, so I find them fascinating. So thank you for sharing this article with me, and I need further time to actually study them, but on my first pass through them, I was most taken by “The Dog.” This is of course similar to my own black dog, Willow. Not a good reason for liking a work of art, but for now that is reason enough!

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  4. Sorry, Dave, I’ve just spent hours on trying to send this photo to you all and I can’t yet figure it out yet. I hit post by mistake, so I’m about ready to give it up, as most everyone won’t even care, but it’s something I should know how to do!!! 🙂

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    • Very sorry that didn’t work after all the effort you put in, Kat Lib. I have sort of a basic WordPress site, so that might be the problem. If you want to email the photo to me, I can look at it, but I realize that doesn’t make it visible to readers and commenters here.

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  5. Boethius wrote The Consolations of Philosophy, so this blog might be aptly tilted The Consolations of Literature.

    Makes me think of Renoir’s marvelous movie, The Grand Illusion, in which one of the prisoners of war, with whom the film concerned itself, managed to maintain his perspective and future hopes of a scholarly life by translating a thick book of Pindar. A prison warden, played by Eric Von Stroheim, felt along the head of this aspiring intellectual in a phrenological manner and then uttered “Poor Pindar.”

    We may be consoled by literature, but it may not always be for the betterment of literature, despite its effect on ourselves.

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  6. The Trump Phenomenon will one day be looked back upon in bewilderment and sorrow. It is the death wish of a failing society and economy which would rather doom its inhabitants than admit that it, as a system, it must move aside, or be moved. The personification of the death wish is our president, but he is hardly responsible for the effect he has had on the voting public.

    Without a budget for a national campaign, without a ‘ground game’, without campaign workers, without an endorsement from a single major newspaper, he has become, thanks to the creaking mechanism of our electoral college, the most powerful man on earth. A crude, unhinged and stupid man who operates by impulse to defend his brittle personality at any and every cost now has the nuclear codes in his incapable hands. We will be more than a little lucky if he manages not to detonate one such bomb or more before his time in office is ended.

    None of this, as the phrase I see so often nowadaze goes, is normal. Rather, it is phenomenal. Donald Trump is cult that worships itself, within a cult that worships him from a distance, beyond which the rest of us, even his detractors, encircle the man and his cult, eyes wide open. Until the charm of fascination that surrounds him like a phosphorescent vapor dissipates, if ever, he will maintain his hold on the attentions of us all for more time than he could possibly deserve. We cannot look away and we don’t quite know why– now we can say it’s because of his power to do harm to the world and our institutions of government, but before, when he was just another blowhard from teevee, too many of us could not pry our eyeballs from his doings.

    There is in history, a man of destiny who for far better reasons saw and encouraged a cult growing up around him, yet knew he did not hold fate in his own hands:
    “I feel as if I am being driven towards an unknown goal. As soon as it is attained and there will no longer be any use for me, an atom will be sufficient to annihilate me; but until then, all human efforts whether in Paris or in the army will be powerless to prevail against me.’”– Napoleon

    Trump is likewise a man of destiny, but a deeply unreflective sort; a cork who is convinced he is driving the sunami wave on which he bobs. He is a golden car wreck, a flaming circus, a bejeweled emperor with no pants. But as such, he commands attention, too too much attention, from us all, because, like Isaac Taylor’s description of superstition in his 1833 treatise “The Natural History of Enthusiasm”, he

    “…as if with a power of fascination, has always been drawing men from extensive surfaces toward some one vortex of delusion…”

    One hopes this vortex is not located in a vast charnel house, because hope is all one has– hope for Napoleon’s annihilating atom, which I do not mean to be taken literally, but rather, politically.

    Hardly surprising that in such times as now, and with such a point of focus, our eyes and brains are not always up to the task of reposeful, reflective, contemplative reading.

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    • Exceptional essay/analysis, jhNY! If Trump tried to read it, he couldn’t handle the intelligence, the complexity of thought, the eloquence, and the truth of what you said.

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      • It’s longer than a page, in print, so….there’s nearly no chance he’d read it unedited, though I understand his aides have taken to sprinkling his name through all the single pages they put before him, having discovered in his short time in office that the president tends to read with more interest so long as he sees the subject is himself.

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          • I would expand on this, or would have, were I not confident that further verbiage would lengthen the comment above to an unattractive size. For readers here. I think everybody everyplace now is so distracted that lengthy concentration is nearly impossible.

            Had I written more I would have listed examples of political suicide or formerly irrefutable disqualifications that have somehow so far made no real impact on the Trump Phenomenon–
            serial lying about everything (before he took office and after) three divorces, four business bankruptcies, no release of tax returns, racism, sexism, religious intolerance, etc., etc. etc.

            Most ominously, a sale, more than a decade ago, the largest in FL history for a private dwelling that netted him 60 million dollars after spending 40 on the property and making no improvements to a Russian oligarch with ties to Putin– who never visited the place and eventually tore it down, a transaction transparently dodgy yet which somehow escaped the earnest attentions of investigators in the state and federal governments. Why and how was he able for so long to fly under the radar of those charged with oversight of such doings?

            Either there is in place a systemic corruption so total as to defy exaggeration, at every level, or Trump to date exerts a charisma that is off the charts in its power to blind his idolators and also shield him from serious inquiry, which is why he provided, in the heat of the presidential campaign, his own version of Napoleon’s musing about destiny:”I could stand In the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

            Agreed. But why?

            We may, in future, collectively, investigate and litigate our way away from this fascinating, foul-hearted monster that, for whatever reasons, we cannot keep our eyes off now, but we need, even more than we need to put him behind us, to understand how it is an unfit candidate become an unfit president.

            Do not look to the stars; the fault lies in ourselves.

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            • Well said again, jhNY!

              I agree that Trump has gotten away with countless transgressions — just one of which would have sunk most politicians.

              As for your last line, I agree that Trump is the fault of many Americans, but not the majority of Americans. And of course we have to look at the way media conglomerates and other corporations and bigwigs helped foist on us a man (Trump) who the majority of Americans loathed even before he became president.

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              • “I agree that Trump is the fault of many Americans, but not the majority of Americans.” Of course, numerically, as total votes go, this is correct. But I mean something beyond that one day of polling. We all watched as our institutions of law, the press and politics all failed us– as too many of our fellow citizens found something– not just Donald Trump– in that failure to cheer for.

                There were nearly three million of us who voted otherwise. But the electoral college has always been with us and is likely to be with us always. A winning Democratic strategist plans accordingly– there’s no victory in calling a loss there a sort of technicality, as technically, it’s in the Constitution. Winning nationally in an election decided on a state-by-state basis– that’s what’s called a footnote to history.

                The business of persuasion takes in billions annually– because it works. But at the same time, a citizenry that will not feel obligation to keep itself reliably informed, and from that reliable information form its own conclusions, is a very bad breeding ground for the future of our democracy, which I fear, is mostly behind us.

                Do not look to the stars; the fault lies in ourselves. On a state-by-state basis.

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                • All good points, jhNY.

                  The Electoral College is truly an abomination, but we seem to be stuck with it. Republicans just love it too much. Certainly worked well for them in 2000 and 2016.

                  And, yes, many people need to be much more informed. With all the media and social media out there, there are plenty of ways to stay informed. But of course some stuff is right-wing fake news that people believe, not realizing they’re seeing lies and propaganda. Or they’re brainwashed by Fox News lies and bias. Or much of the U.S. education system (especially in red states) directly or indirectly trains people to be good little followers who don’t question authority. Somehow staying really and legitimately informed is harder than it should be.

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  7. Dave, this has been such a bad day for me in many ways, both physically and mentally, for which I’ll gladly blame Trump and “The Never-ending Story” of only 116 days in office and how he seems bent on destroying this country for his own childish ego. I didn’t even make it to vote today, which I had every intention of doing, but was feeling quite unwell, and I couldn’t remember if my polling place had adequate accommodations for people with disabilities.

    I think it was only last week I mentioned Alice in Wonderland and feeling like we’d already fallen down the rabbit-hole. Today, I’ve been thinking more about “Through the Looking Glass.” This led to one of my favorite quotes and titles (and I don’t quote the Bible often), but it’s from Corinthians: “Through a Glass, Darkly.” This sums up my feelings about what we’re being subjected to today. Thanks for allowing me to vent for even a short period of time!

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    • Very sorry, Kat Lib, about your bad day. In addition to the personal difficulties a person can face (and you have plenty to deal with), every day brings news of more corrupt, disgusting, soul-crushing actions by Trump and his ilk. It really does get overwhelming.

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    • I’m so sorry you’ve had a rough time lately, Kat Lib. I’m sure there are various reasons, but Donald Trump is contributing to the national anxiety level, and for those of us who have battled depression/anxiety/panic, the barrage of chaotic events in this administration does, I have no doubt, lend itself to the exacerbation of those symptoms. Every day of my life now, I find myself saying out loud, “Please make him go away.” It’s so darkly funny that you mention “Through the Looking Glass” — this is exactly what I’ve been thinking, and I almost posted it here recently. “Through the Looking Glass” – where all is chaos and jibberish and double-talk, and everyone, except Alice, treats it all as if it’s perfectly normal. In the same vein, if we are really going to somehow end up with this lunatic president for any duration, we’re all going to need whatever the Caterpillar was smoking in “Alice in Wonderland”.

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  8. I’ve had reading gaps when I’ve been busy with school and when I’ve been really depressed. I had ECT to treat my depression. A few hours after my first ECT treatment I picked up a book and started reading for the first time in over a year. That was seen as proof that the ECT was working.

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    • Thanks so much for your comment, Kira, and for sharing your difficult experiences.

      School and depression definitely make it harder to find the time and be in the mood to read books. What a great feeling it must have been to pick up a book again after your treatment.

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    • Kira, thanks for sharing your problems with depression and hence, with not reading or doing everything we loved before it hit us. I’ve recounted here many times about my own struggles with it; I think when I was first diagnosed, ECT was still considered as akin to lobotomies or almost as barbaric. So I was treated with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds (and still take them today), as well as talk therapy. I spent five weeks on a med-psych floor during the worst of it, and had times in the day when I had to take part in music, art, and craft therapies. One of my favorite memories was the music therapist, who knew David Bowie was my favorite rock musician, led a group session of all of us (most of whom were a lot older than I), and when he broke out into “Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars,” I still can hear one older lady querulously asking out loud, “Ziggy Who”? 🙂

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    • Hi Kira — Thank you so much for sharing your experience with depression. It’s always so encouraging to me to learn of positive outcomes where ECT is concerned — and apparently that is the norm now rather than the exception. Carrie Fisher did a lot to destigmatize ECT; she talked about it openly and credited ECT as the best choice she ever made in handling her depression. She also helped put an end to the image people had in their minds of the process as a painful excruciating experience with violent seizures. With modern techniques that has changed completely, and it is a simple procedure, as I understand it. How wonderful that you wanted to start back reading right away! Thank you again, Kari, for your inspirational comment.

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  9. Great topic. Wonderful comments! Enjoyed them all.

    Speaking of topics. LOL My one and only daughter (India March) got married a week ago. I am still traumatized by the whole event, for which I was put in charge and left to deal with all of the tiny, unending dangling strings to tie together and make a beautiful event. I’ve read nothing this past few weeks, and spent all of my down time in prayer and positive reinforcement of my own abilities “to get through this.” If it were not for past panic attacks where I learned techniques for surviving them, I would really have been up a creek, just trying to get through this. In the end, my youngest son (31 years) was my hero. He stepped up and did much of the leg work required on the last 3 days. He literally saved the day. I am in recovery still, but without his love of his mom (me) and his dedication to being supportive of his family, I’d likely not even be able to read this article or participate in the comments at all today. Here is a big cheer to my son, the best son on this planet. Morgan, I love you dearly, son.

    Thank you for the constancy of your reliably good writing and your never ending reading of all good works, Dave. You keep a light burning, where none would be, if it were not for you.

    Everyone, have a lovely, calm, kind, generous week. All best wishes are sent out to you.

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    • Thank you, hopewfaith! I’ve also been impressed with the comments — including yours. 🙂

      Congratulations on the wedding of your daughter! Definitely a momentous event. But sorry it was so stressful — that’s a LOT of work and planning. I can totally understand not having the time to read much for a while. When one is very busy dealing with major responsibilities (whether happy or sad ones), it’s hard to do everything else we want. Fantastic that your amazing son came through and did so much to help! Much credit to the way you raised him.

      (My older daughter is getting married this October. She and her fiance are doing virtually all the organizing, so I’ve been VERY lucky in that respect.)

      I appreciate the very kind words in your next-to-last paragraph, and have a great week, too!

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  10. Howdy, Dave!

    — What have been your experiences (if any) with reading gaps? —

    I have not had any of them yet, but I am only in my early 60s.

    — Why did you read little or no fiction for a period of time? —

    If the frequency of my fiction reading falls, then the frequency of my nonfiction reading rises.

    — How you did you feel about that? —

    Great! Literature broadly defined beats literature narrowly defined every time!

    — What got you back to reading fiction? —

    The last time, I completed my reading of the Quaker Oats 100% Natural Whole Grain Old Fashioned box in the cupboard, including a pretty good recipe for Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, so I figured I would stick with a complementary theme while moving from nonfiction to fiction by tackling Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

    Delicious!

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

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    • Thank you, J.J.!

      No reading gaps — impressive! And it’s great that if your fiction reading ebbs, your nonfiction reading un-ebbs. 🙂

      Wonderfully droll last paragraph! I’m thinking that, for me, reading the back of a cereal box might mean a segue to rereading “The Road to Wellville,” the excellent T.S. Boyle novel partly about famous cereal magnate John Harvey Kellogg!

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      • — I’m thinking that, for me, reading the back of a cereal box might mean a segue to rereading “The Road to Wellville” —

        Based on the reputation of “The Road to Wellville,” it would appear to be an excellent idea to go that route in this context. Meanwhile, the only T.C. Boyle novel I have consumed to date is the considerably less toothsome “Riven Rock.” Ow. Ow. Ow. . . .

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        • It IS an interesting novel, J.J. Kellogg was one strange person. I admire (and practice) his vegetarianism, but there’s not much else I admire about him.

          I’m also an only-read-one-book-by-T.C. Boyle person. 🙂

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      • J.J. and Dave, I couldn’t help thinking about your comments as I was forced this morning to read the back of the Quaker Oats Old-Fashioned Oatmeal box to figure out how to make it on the stovetop, as opposed to the microwave. My brand-new microwave is already on the fritz, after deciding to replace the one I’ve had since 1986, used almost daily with no problems whatsoever — so now we’re going to see if it can be resurrected, as we’ve yet to find somewhere to dispose of it responsibly. Goodness, the things we talk about here online never ceases to amaze me! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yikes, Kat Lib — they might not make microwaves like they used to? Sorry about that. And I hope the stove-top version was a success.

          As for things we talk about online, I think I’d rather discuss oatmeal than Trump’s brain (which, come to think of it, seems oatmeal-like).

          Like

        • Howdy, Kat Lib!

          — I couldn’t help thinking about your comments as I was forced this morning to read the back of the Quaker Oats Old-Fashioned Oatmeal box to figure out how to make it on the stovetop, as opposed to the microwave. —

          Microwaved oatmeal! There oughta be a law!*

          J.J.

          *A tip of the hat to Al Fagaly, Harry Shorten and, of course, Jimmy Hatlo.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, J.J., I’ve always been a lazy “cook” so most of my meals have usually been the product of my microwave. Every once in a while I go on a tear to start making meals from scratch, including salad dressing, soups, etc. A few years ago, I was doing this and my good friend who lived across the hall from me, walked in and said, “OK, who are you and what have you done with Kat?”

            Liked by 1 person

            • — I’ve always been a lazy “cook” so most of my meals have usually been the product of my microwave. —

              I see. My own culinary practices are more Flintstones than Jetsons (although I wouldn’t mind having a flying car, the availability of parking spaces being what it is here in New Bedrock).

              Liked by 1 person

  11. I use to read at least one book per week, mostly fiction, and for the past several years have been in a slump of reading mostly non-fiction. Some of my nonfiction reading has been work related. Then when I started writing a couple of years ago I read books on writing, particularly humor writing which is my main genre. I’m happy to report that I’ve read 3 fiction books in the past few months and your Literature trivia book has also whetted my appetite for more. As I was reading your book I recalled with fondness the authors and books I had read in the past and longed to read the others I have not read. Fiction has been akin to food and water throughout my lifetime in keeping me nourished. I’m feeling a bit anemic and dehydrated, but I have hope I’ll pull through and recover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Shallow Reflections!

      Well, reading nonfiction is still reading — and can be wonderful and helpful. As in reading books about writing/humor writing (which you’ve done), reading biographies (some of which read like novels), etc.!

      And a great, eloquent ending to your comment! There IS something about fiction that’s helpful to our mood and our humanity and more.

      (Glad reading my book has been a positive thing for you; I appreciate you mentioning that!)

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Dave, another great topic! I know that there are times when I go through reading droughts, usually associated with times of great stress, but it has to do with fiction, as I continue reading even if it’s non-fiction or articles in newspapers or magazines. It’s a compulsion that I have in which it would never to be possible not to read something, anything! I just shared with another commenter here in an email about my favorite photo of my mom from many years ago; it’s black & white, and she’s curled up on a sofa engrossed in a book. She’s so pretty and peaceful, and I wish I know what book she’s reading, but I’ve got to be content with just knowing how much her example was passed on to her six children.

    I’m still rereading the book from the “The American Girl Magazine — Stories to Live By” published in the 1950’s. Not great literature by any means, but they are definitely stories about living as a teenager in a moral and courageous manner, given many different scenarios of how one got there. Which is interesting in and of itself as a book to remind us that things don’t change all that much from generation to generation, even though fads and other things do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lib!

      After seeing your excellent comment, I realized that during my recent fiction drought I also was still reading a lot of nonfiction — not books, but many articles, chiefly about what America’s miserable leaders (Trump, Ryan, etc.) have been doing to this country. It’s infuriating to read, but, like a car crash, hard not to be drawn to.

      Wonderful to hear about that photo of your mom reading! What a great habit to pass along to her children. That’s a real role model!

      And yes, as you allude to in your last paragraph, humans and human emotions are basically the same from generation to generation — though the technology and other things change.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Definitely hard to avoid, Pat. We need to stay informed about what these GOP evildoers are evil-doing. But I resent it a bit. I still get one print newspaper (The New York Times), and used to race through it each day in maybe 20 minutes. Now it might be 45 minutes, which takes away some novel-reading time. Thanks, Trump. 😦 😦

          Liked by 1 person

      • Dave, after mentioning this photo and since last Sunday was Mother’s Day I thought I’d try to share this with you all. Please keep in mind that I’m just about as good with photos as I am with to, J.J.!). So here is my mom Evelyn, someone who was an inspiration to me and my siblings to love books, music, the arts, dancing, and even cooking and gardening (although those last two aren’t exactly my strong suits, though I’m trying to get better now that I’ve got my own home.

        Liked by 2 people

        • As I mentioned above, Kat Lib, very sorry you weren’t able to post the photo here — perhaps because of my basic WordPress site. Your mother sounds amazing and, yes, inspirational.

          Like

  13. Hi Dave,

    What terrific questions you end this with 🙂 Sadly, one of my first panic attacks came when I was reading. Maybe I got a little TOO caught up in the story! Unfortunately it freaked me out a bit, and put me off reading for a quite a while. Then I was house bound for a couple of years, and all of my reading was about ways of managing my anxiety so that I could function again. Then one day, after I’d started venturing out, I was at a friend’s house, and she was watching “Star Trek”. I’m not sure which series it was, but to my inexperienced eyes it just looked like a bunch of weird people who didn’t belong anywhere. My friend went on to explain who each character was, and what made them unique and interesting. It reminded me of a fantasy series that I’d read as a teenager, and suddenly I realised that I’d missed escaping into those make-believe worlds. I think I may have driven my girlfriend crazy by spending the rest of the episode talking about how books are so much better than TV! So I risked having another panic attack and immersed myself in the world of literature again. That would have been 20 years ago, and I doubt that too many days have gone by where I haven’t read at least a page or two.

    I know we all get busy, and we don’t have as much time to read as we’d like. I’ve had crazy months where I don’t open my book until I’m in bed, and then I’m trying to read it through my eyelids! But people who truly say they don’t have time to read, simply don’t want to. It’s kind of like me saying I don’t have time to exercise. I can find an hour to spend with my book, but not 20 minutes to go for a jog. But I know how important it is for me to have that downtime with a book, and so I always make time. And fortunately, it seldom creates the anxiety that I suffered that night so many years ago. Though I do still get completely swept away. Today I spent 20 minutes in Green Gables, and am having a little teary at my desk after a particularly touching moment with Anne and her parents.

    Thanks for this week’s topic, Dave. It’s made me realise how grateful I am that I can almost always find time for this incredibly enjoyable hobby 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

      • bebe, Sue could write a GREAT book! I’d definitely buy it and read it.

        As a matter of fact, you and many other commenters here could write excellent books as well (and some have). There’s a lot of writing ability, knowledge, humor, and compassion in the comments — all very nice ingredients for a book.

        Of course, as this week’s blog post notes, finding time for everything — including reading and writing — isn’t easy. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

        • Dave guilty of such, have not been reading much, georgeous outside so I spend time more walking wit Pomchi and chatting with neighbors or such. I might add I know so many folks in this town I will call them aqantances. I Have NO friends in this DT town. I am just so fine with it .
          Coming to yours or Jacks absolutely makes it up 😉

          Liked by 2 people

          • I hear you, bebe. Walking your dog, enjoying the weather, spending time chatting with neighbors, and so on is all very important stuff. And good for one’s (and one’s dog’s) emotional health — especially in this time of Trump trauma.

            I’m lucky that there are many like-minded people in my town — in last year’s primaries and election, many Hillary supporters, a good number of Bernie supporters, and very few Trump supporters (though plenty in some nearby towns).

            Thanks for your mention of enjoying being here and in Jack’s blog! 🙂 We all need a place to vent and/or to have somewhat of a mental break!

            Liked by 2 people

        • While I absolutely appreciate the compliment, you both give me far, FAR too much credit. It can sometimes take me a week to comment here, a book would take decades. At least! I do enjoy writing, and I’m very grateful to you, Dave, for giving us this space where I can do that. But I love reading much more than I like writing, so the main point of contributing to blogs like this is so that I can read the wonderful conversations. Also, I think if I ever tried to write anything professional, it would go from fun to work, and I already do enough work! I absolutely admire anybody who has the patience and determination to write books, especially something personal like a “Confessional” memoir, which was so clever, and humorous, and touching, and open, and respectful, and a lot of fun to read. If I ever did put a book together, I imagine it might have a fun opening, and then about a hundred pages later, you’d see that I’d lost interest, and it would then ramble around for a bit until it was about something else completely, and then oh look, squirrels. Sorry, what was I saying?

          Liked by 2 people

          • Thanks for the follow-up comment, Sue! You of course know what’s best for you, and what your strengths are/aren’t. Even if you never write a book, you’re talented in other ways: reading novels, discussing them, being witty (as exemplified by the end of your comment), doing the work you do for your day job, etc., etc.! (And it was very kind of you to say those nice things about my memoir. 🙂 )

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    • Sue, candid, heartfelt, wonderfully written comment. Thank you!

      I hadn’t thought about it when writing this week’s column, but as much of a refuge as reading fiction often is, it can also be painful, anxiety-producing, etc. Depending on the topic of the novel, it’s not always a pleasant escape. I’ve certainly read fiction that has left me depressed for days, even weeks. Fortunately, the best fiction that happens to be depressing is also usually inspiring — how the characters overcame obstacles, perhaps eventually had a better life because of those obstacles, etc.

      Sorry that reading fiction has been anxiety-producing for you at times, but glad (with the help of the wonderful “Star Trek,” which I love 🙂 ) you returned to and have read a tremendous amount of fiction.

      Yes, if we want to read, in most cases we can carve out at least a little time to do so. Our personal priorities and all that.

      Your line about sleepily trying to read a book through your eyelids was brilliantly and funnily said!

      Lastly, “Anne of Green Gables” IS great, isn’t it? And thanks for the kind words about the column!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Dave,

        Yes, reading can cause negative emotions, but generally I find that that can be a good thing. They can’t all be fairy tales! Of course, panic attacks are a whole different level than just being unpleasant. Funnily enough, despite having that reading gap because of a panic attack, I now make sure I ALWAYS have books with me as a security blanket against possible attacks. My kindle is such a comfort to me as I know it’s full of books that I’ve read before and love, and will suit any mood or situation. People might say to always wear clean underwear in case you’re hit by a bus, but my advice is to always have a book. Would there be anything worse than being stuck on the side of the road for hours with nothing to read!

        “Anne” was indeed great. I think it’s Ana who is a big Montgomery fan and was the reason that I bumped the novel up on my list. It was much deeper than I’d expected, and though I love Miss Shirley dearly, she was definitely flawed which was such fun. I’m undecided about whether to add the follow-up novels to my list.

        Dave, I know it’s a little late – however Happy Anniversary to you and your lovely wife xx

        Liked by 2 people

        • You’re right, Sue — if novels were all positive, they’d probably be kind of boring. The heroine/hero needs to go through some challenges before the (possible) happy ending. 🙂

          Yes, novels can be upsetting or comforting — and I hear you about the MAJOR difference between panic attacks and unpleasantness.

          I would also be very bereft if I didn’t have something to read during serious downtime.

          The sequels to the sublime “Anne of Green Gables” vary from great to good, but none are as good as the first book. My other favorite L.M. Montgomery work is the stand-alone “The Blue Castle” — a wonderful novel. Ana is definitely a fan of “Anne”!

          And thank you for the kind anniversary wishes!

          Liked by 1 person

        • “Funnily enough, despite having that reading gap because of a panic attack, I now make sure I ALWAYS have books with me as a security blanket against possible attacks.” … Hi Sue – How wonderful that books provide you with such comfort and healing. Thank you so much for your comment.

          Liked by 1 person

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