End of Reading

About three-quarters of a century ago, I learned to read. The first word I learned to read was 'MILK' an easy one that appeared on the bottle that graced our breakfast table every morning. I had already learned the alphabet song and understood that reading was a thing because I had been read to often, but this was the first time I had put together letters out in the world with a word I knew. I felt quite pleased with myself, as was my mother, and I immediately started on "homogenized," with which she was happy to supply a little help. I was just three.

After that I read comic books in numbers and then library books, mostly trash, I'm afraid, because we were not a literary family. I was one of those kids who was eternally reading and I regarded orders to get out and get some fresh air as a kind of condemnation, like jail. Time spent not reading was a waste of time. This continued throughout my life. It was a kind of torture to be stranded without access to text. In some strange city, bookless, I've walked through rainstorms to find a bookstore or a newsstand. I have never been hooked on smack, but there are commonalities here.

There are probably five thousand books now in my house, stuffed bookcases in almost every room, I live in a city with excellent bookstores and of course there is Amazon. In the past, it was not unusual for me to read ten books a week, plus every word in a short stack of journalism each day, week or month. Thus it was a surprise when I discovered I no longer took pleasure in reading. I have maybe twenty books sitting on various household surfaces that I've never picked up, or started and dropped after a few chapters. I will probably never re-read any of the thousands on the bookshelves. Oddly, I'm not too upset about this.I don't think it's dementia, actually. I read the occasional article on the news feed, and comment, and I try to keep up with what's happening, although I am cancelling some subscriptions now.

I'm still writing, strangely enough. I haven't been very successful in getting published recently, but I find I barely care anymore. It's like Anna KamieĊ„ska says, "My hand craves writing like the woodcutter's hand craves an axe. Only this reminds me that I am alive."  Reading has always been a part of this, sometimes comically, as when I discover I have started to write in the style of the last author I read, but no longer.  I think maybe I read enough books now. I'm baked. 

So what to do now with the time freed up? Not a problem: it turns out that age accelerates time and eliminates the notion of boredom, because one is so damn glad to be alive. A day lasts maybe three hours, which involves twenty minutes of writing and the rest taken up with required chores, meals, TV, (the wonderful-horrible soap opera thriller that is our national life these days) and relationship, and then it's bed time again. Where went all those idle hours in a comfy chair, flicking pages?

So I am kind of looking forward to what comes next. It's said that in the East it's expected that after a lifetime of productive work, an individual will retreat from the world into contemplation of what cannot be put into words. Perhaps the end of reading is an initial phase of this process. So, bye-bye books, nice knowing ya, thanks for the memories, and have a nice life.