Dispatches | October 18, 2006

Speer’s recent blog about the latest effort by Le Carré reminded me of something I know about myself as a reader, and it made me wonder how much company I have.

Here’s my confession: I don’t think I have ever been in love with an author. About books, novels, stories, poems, I have often felt passionately, but not about their writers.

And here’s a second confession: I started just now to make a list of works I loved, but it occurred to me that with a couple of possible exceptions (and even those are iffy), I don’t love them anymore. A case in point, Tom Jones, one of the most incredibly plotted novels in the English language. A must-read. I adored it.


Now I just remember being in love with it while I was reading it. I would recommend it to everyone — am recommending it to you — but I no longer love Tom Jones, as I no longer love Barchester Towers or Remains of the Day or Sartor Resartus or Yeats’s sweet short lyric “When You Are Old” or even Hamlet or Catch-22, both of which I’ve re-read more times than any other works (excluding those sorts of things that you teach repeatedly and have to reread, such as “Lady With the Pet Dog” or “To His Coy Mistress”).

Right now I’m in love with whatever I’m reading right now (I’m sorry to say it’s this blog, which is hardly worth it). Later today I’ll be in love with whatever I’m reading then. Tomorrow I’ll be in love with something else. Given the multiplicity of “ties that bind” in our existences as social creatures, this is one of the lures of reading. No strings attached. Pick it up, put it down.

If the heart loves forever, the reader’s mind is an ADD lover. (Writers should be grateful, since it means that even a third-rate author has a chance at stealing the audience of a Nobel Prize winner.) No one expects you to stick with the same poem for more than five minutes, the same essay for more than a half-hour, the same book for more than a day or two.

At least, that’s what I’m thinking right now.