If you could visualize yourself in your perfect reading mode and place, what would that look like? Being completely immersed in an amazing new book, whizzing through it at eighty pages per hour, or slowly savoring some delightfully dense old classic?
I always have this conflicting vision of me either reading five galleys in a day and loving them all, or sitting down with a paper and pencil and deconstructing some truly amazing short story so I can still that writer’s powers. It is quite clear that I cannot do both these modes of reading at the same time. I suppose I can try and do these two things in one day, but that almost never happens. I am not saying that one mode of reading is more important that the other. I occasionally come across some misguided opinion that the only good reading one can do is ‘deep’ and ‘serious’ and ‘thoughtful’, as if there is no thought involved at all in reading some good erotica (quoting Jon Stewart on the subject of books, ‘it’s like a movie you get to direct in your own head!’).
Breezing through upcoming releases for work and doing some reading for what is essentially research seemed like mutually incompatible modes of reading until I came across writer Lisa L. Hannett quoted in Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer (which I only half-jokingly called ‘my bible’ the other day on Instagram): ‘”Frivolous” reading is as important as creative play. Reading for fun, reading to feed your imagination, reading to revel in the childlike wonder of being elsewhere’.
Reading for fun here is the same as reading to feed your imagination, but in my mind, one could easily argue that close, deep reading of something is also the type of reading one does to feed one’s imagination. When I dissect someone’s story, I want to see what makes the author tick and hope that maybe it will also contribute to my own clockwork. Sometimes this dissection leads me into my own direction and helps me make something new (I’m talking about inspiration, not plagiarism).
In the end, I don’t think it matters how one reads, or if one reads more “frivolous” books as opposed to serious ones. Hopefully, it’s all good fodder for fun or work.