Our homework from Rhobin Courtright for April, 2022 is “How much reading do you do, both for pleasure and for a work in progress?”
In the antediluvian times when I was young, reading was one of my addictions. If a bit of newspaper was blowing along the road I’d run to catch it—and read it before finding a bin to stuff it in. I’ve read every book certain authors have written. These include Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Dick Francis, Agatha Christie, Robert Heinlein, Colleen McCullough… perhaps 20 or 30 different authors in a variety of genres or no genre at all.
Nonfiction was even more addictive, because it fed another addiction: learning. Even in the present, it is a good day when I learn something new.
Things got worse when I became an academic. There was so much to read—including journal articles, textbooks sent to me in the hope I’d recommend them, student essays and assignments—that I needed to learn speedreading.
And that’s deadly when you read for entertainment. I remember picking up a Jane Marple mystery—and it was finished in half an hour instead of filling a pleasurable Saturday afternoon.
That was then. Now?
Now I have little chance to read for pleasure, and the internet has forced reference books into retirement. When I do read fiction, it may be my own writing (work), editing for a client (work), reviewing or beta reading a book (work), or reading something to do with news (torture).
There is one exception. Never mind Buddhist nonattachment, I want my Doom Healer series take the world by storm. To see how I can improve it, in my all too scarce spare time during the past few days I have re-read the five books of David Eddings’ Belgariad. This could also be considered work, but I kept reading well after I’d extracted all the lessons I needed to learn.
Here are a few of them:
I was shocked and somewhat even disgusted by the graphic descriptions of violence, injury and trauma. I’d never noticed before, and I think this is a handicap of my spiritual growth since the last time I’d enjoyed this story. I will certainly not copy this aspect.
David has an excellent way of lightening up the grimmest passages with humour, and I closely studied how he does it. I am now doing a revision of my own story to copy the technique.
He is very leisurely, stopping between high-tension scenes for a little look at scenery, or inside the emotions of a character. I definitely need to do this, never mind the word count.
He often says more by what he doesn’t say than in the words on the page. So do I, but a few beta readers have missed the intended message. Still learning to do here.
At the moment I am insanely busy with an election campaign. Here in Australia, we have an opportunity to get rid of a particularly noxious Prime Monster. The elections will be on 21 May. After that, I may track down a few of my other old favourites, and see how much pleasure I can get from reading/studying them.
I hope you’ve got some reading pleasure from this little essay. Let me know in the comment slot below, then hie off to visit my fellow round-robiners below.
Rhobin L Courtright