Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reading for Pleasure

I am a voracious reader. For fun, I read novels. Lots and lots of novels. I managed to read quite a lot last summer, when I was studying bookbinding with Don Rash (who is highly recommended). And in the second year of my graduate program, I still managed to churn through a pretty large number of books, even if it was only at night, to escape from stress and make my brain turn off so I could sleep. I was aided and abetted first by downloading the Kindle app for my iPhone, then by my husband's generous end-of-school gift of a full-size Kindle, which has been keeping me company every day on the Metro. Although I don't agree that it somehow magically becomes a book in your hands—the clicking page-forward buttons are somewhat offputting—it does keep me occupied. Even when the air conditioning has failed, as it did yesterday. Ugh.

Lately I've been reading Haven Kimmel's books, and although I'm somewhat ambivalent about them, I can't seem to stop reading. Her latest novel, Iodine, reads like a fever dream, and I loved The Used World. To hear Kimmel tell it, Indiana is full of wasted small towns populated by dysfunctional families and meth freaks, with assorted pointy-headed, emotionally scarred intellectuals thrown in for good measure. The striking contrast between these characters can make for compelling reading, especially when the educated folks manage to maintain empathy for the lost souls struggling around them. However, I lose my patience with some of the religious-studies jargon. In The Solace of Leaving Early, Kimmel writes about Alfred North Whitehead's theology as perceived by preacher Amos Townsend:

"In God's Primordial Nature there exist all the pure possibilities for every moment (every actual occasion, Whitehead would say) of concrescence; in the Consequent Nature is the world as we choose to make it: every actual occasion and every actual entity, every single moment, rendered objectively immortal. Amos still felt a chill when he considered the reach of this idea, and how he felt when he first heard it discussed in seminary."

Unfortunately, I got to the end of that paragraph and said, "Huh?" This is the reason I decided not to pursue a PhD in English Literature. The theory and the jargon were completely unpalatable to me. Eventually, after multiple readings, I think I see where Kimmel is going—and it's even a cool idea—but it's completely obscured by Important Sounding Language. I hate that crap. Plus, I have problems with conceptualizing the nature of God. Any God we can define becomes automatically too small, too limited, too tame. Why define Her mysterious ways? If they can be known at all, we'll know them when we're dead, and not before. All these discussions of free will and predestination seem pointless when you consider that the rules don't change: Love God, love your neighbor. The end. Isn't that hard enough? Do we really need a bunch of inscrutable terminology to complicate matters?

OK, OK. Stepping down off my soapbox. I guess my religious intellect has never progressed beyond the Chronicles of Narnia. Still, I keep reading, even when books annoy me. They're my favorite escape. To track the books I'm reading, visit my book list at Goodreads. I've got a backlog of titles to upload, but I'm working on it. Happy reading!


  1. We can create a new disease and call it ISL (Important Sounding Language) Syndrome, also Impotent Sounding Language Syndrome. A way to dilute good stories, usually.

    So glad to see you reading, literally, and to know that you are doing something as wonderful as saving books. L.

  2. Renee, is it cold up there this summer? Or was that pic taken when the air conditioning was working? ;)