Monday, November 13, 2006

The Diminished Bookworm

I hate being sick. I'm sure most of the population feels the same way, but I know they can't possibly suffer as much as I do. [insert self-pitying tone here]

The reason? When I'm sick, I can't read!

No, I'm not suddenly stricken illiterate, thank goodness. But I have a terrible glimpse into what life must be like for nonreaders, and people with a reading disability.

When I'm sick, reading's a chore. It takes me forever. I read the same paragraph 4-5 times, and wonder what I've just read. I can only read a few pages then my attention wanders or I go to sleep. It's like someone has taken me off of Optical Cruise Control. My brain feels disoriented, like when I try on occasion to use my left hand exclusively.

The loss of this inner mechanism is how I can gauge if I'm really sick or just a bit under the weather. If I'm just under the weather, my reading life goes along, smoothly as always -- I'm propped in bed with my comforter, OTC medicines, and a tidy stack of books, reading along at my usual clip, but looking haggard enough for people to tiptoe around me, letting me get my "rest".

That hasn't been the case for over two weeks now. I'm propped in bed with all of the above, staring wearily at the stack of books wondering what the hell has happened to me. It's all very frustrating, because I still need to read. I still have the urge: I'm Bybee, therefore, I read.

So I grind along, and the results are not very pretty. For example, it's already mid-November, and I've only read one book! The last book I finished was on October 25. I had to abandon my next read, A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman because it was too overwhelming. How frustrating! I'd just finished the chapter about the Black Death, and was beginning to read about Charles The Bad, and I just couldn't go on, as much as I wanted to. I felt like Little Blackie, Mattie Ross's pony in True Grit. I dropped right there in my reading traces. I couldn't have continued even if Larry McMurtry and John Updike had been there taking turns propping the book for me, and the whole American Library Association had been clustered around the bed, cheering me on.

The book I did finish this month and the only reading I've been able to manage was something I'd had on my TBR bookshelf for 2 years: All Things Bright And Beautiful, by James Herriot, the second in a quartet of books about a veterinarian practicing in Yorkshire. I was under the impression that these books were the "Chicken Soup" books of 30 years ago, but I was wrong. Herriot's writing style is slightly awkward, but endearingly so. His stories of his animal patients and their sometimes eccentric owners are humorous and robust, and never at all cloying as I feared they might be. It took a long time to read this book, but I enjoyed it so much that I'm planning to read the whole quartet, starting with All Creatures Great And Small, when I lay my hands on a copy.

I was in a bookstore this weekend, and even browsing titles was work! (God help me if I ever come down with something more significant than bronchitis; I'll be a finished-off bookworm for sure.)

Optimistic that the "real" me is just lying in wait and will go back to cracking books with great ferocity one day soon, I bought 2 novels: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I looked at a copy of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, but the absence of chapter breaks and the Capitialization in the middle of Sentences gave me a Headache.

I hate being sick. Bring on the cough, the fever, the stuffy nose, and all that goes with it -- I'll endure. Just give me back my essence of bookworminess!


Bookfool said...

Oh, dear! I haven't been here in quite a while. So sorry you've been sick. I see you posted this a week ago, so hopefully you're better by now!!

I've had a very, very slow reading month, myself. It's frustrating - I love the fact that I'm making progress with my NaNoWriMo story, but it would be nice to find more reading time. Hope the last 10 days of November are an improvement, for you. :)

Bybee said...

Bookfool, I admire you for taking on a task as big as a novel.

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness, that's awful! That's the only thing that gets me through being sick is being able to pass the time with books. Although sometimes it's good just to do nothing and let your body recupe.

Hope you feel better soon!

Roberta said...

You sure can paint us a vivid picture. Thanks for sharing.

nessie said...

For me its head aches. I cannot LIVE when I have a headache. Looking at my books hurts. Sometimes when am reading a juicy plot I ignore the pain only to have to spend more time in bed after. Sorry to hear your not well, hope you feel better and the books will be waiting for u... promise

nessie said...

Bybee - I have been dating a Korean for a little while now. I love the food. Do you have any Korean literature you can recommend that has good/worthy English translations? I graduated from East Asian Studies but the majority of my literature knowledge is Japanese (as u can tell from my profile I guess...) I would be forever in your debt & your welcome to come by to MTL... we have great bookstore culture here.

Bybee said...

Nessie, I can get you some Korean novels in translation very easily! Send me your address and I'll pop them in the mail!

nessie said...


Ok and there is like this dream I have for an xmas present for my boyfriend... its Lord of the rings in Korean.

I am sending you everything from my dna to my address to you now.

loves kisses and all the gods' blessings!!!!!!!!!!!