Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning to Read

Further dispatches from this slow life in the country finds my reading skills improving. As I am the proud mother of a middle school-er the topic of practice comes up often, the benefits of doing things that you naturally can do but can also do much better through practice are the topic of regular discussion, and so I have taken my own advice and am noticing certain improvements in my ability to take in and digest the written word. A friend, a writer, has been giving me books to read and I have been devouring them. I have read more this year than any other year of my entire life.

My house has always been filled with books. There are my books, the ones I have designed, and books about art and design. There are my mothers books; after she died we laid her books out on her living room floor and took turns picking the ones we each wanted. There are books on loan, (perpetual loan, as in they may never be returned to people I have now lost track of), there are books I have read and many more I have yet to read.

I just finished Lorrie Moore's book, "A Gate at the Stairs", and so not having a specific book to read I read the introduction and a few entries of Virgina Woolf's Diary, Volume 3, from my mother's collection. I observed that my mind wasn't wandering off, out of my control as it used to, slipping silently off the edge of the bed abandoning the warm covers, onto the floor, slithering into my boots being reminded of something not present in the text that my eyes were working hard to follow along with, my brain, now disengaged is onto something else, something outside, down the road and then its over, I have lost the thread and have to go back to the point where I got distracted.

I wake at 6am, 30 minutes before Pearl and manage to read in toto the introduction to the diary and absorb it, making real the life of a woman struggling to be an artist and wife. The next morning I find myself reading a type specimen pamphlet that was sent to my office from Emigre studios in California. It was a type sampler but what I hadn't realized was that it was about something, it contained actual content. Rudy VanderLans of Emigre had set out to photograph in wide format, 13 sites of the Mexican American War. He ended up designing these little typographic samplers telling the story in a style akin to early stock certificates or fruit crate labels. It was fascinating and I was transported to California circa 1840 without leaving my precious bed.

It used to take me forever to finish anything I was reading. I read slowly, I never gave it any priority. Reading was relegated to when I went to bed which is not the best time of day for me. I would read a paragraph or two and then fall asleep, it was hard to keep track of what was happening in the story, going at a snail's pace as I did. I stopped my morning writing practice a while back and began to take language in rather than spew it forth. I'll go back to writing at some point but for now I am enjoying the reading. I have come to appreciate what a practice reading is and how much better I am getting at it and how satisfied it makes me feel. I learned to read at the normal age and I read a fair amount during my youth but I went for years without reading very much. These days when I wake up before the alarm I don't feel the urge to rush out to the office to give priority to work instead I look forward to a little mind expansion before the busyness of the day takes over.

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