Dig in and read. / by Christina Rosalie

It is midwinter here in my small corner of the world and also in my blue-roomed heart. I’m tucked in, my pulse moving slowly and full of trepidation like water running under pale knocked together shards of ice. Self doubt circles like a pack of coyotes, their tracks mushy and dark where the earth collapses, pressing up close to icy ribbon of river.

This is what winter always brings: a bareness; an uncomfortable edge; inadequacy. Things seem so blatant; personal deficits larger than life, like the huge fiery orange sun we watched today. It tangled in the bare branches of the trees near us at the top of the sledding hill, then slipped away, leaving the snow stained pink with longing.

I spent the morning in a quiet house reading Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer, and coming face to face with the blunt edge of my own lack. In the back of the book, “119 Books To Be Read Immediately” and I’ve read only a small handful. I’m a slow reader, with a tendency to dally in the text. I soak up sentences. I read with a pen, marking, dog-earing, rummaging back through previous pages. But I’m also a sporadic, undisciplined reader, and I’m ashamed of this.

Books have a way of inhabiting the drawers of my mind, like so many jars of gesso and paint, easily jostled, staining the surface of my day. I have a hard time shaking free of them, and carrying on, so I have a certain reluctance grappling with anything weighty unless I have the means to hunker down and read it for an entire day.

Also, I am lazy. I drag my feet about finishing books that don’t catch my interest in the first few lines (fickle, I know). I lack analytical fervor. I read simply for the joy of language, story, and words, which I’ve always loved and carried covetously around in my pocket on the scribbled pages of a 4x6” Mead memo book. But I lack critical finesse, and also time, clarity, and a hundred other things have thus far prevented me from reading the list of books I probably should already have read.

Somewhere along the way I’ve also let myself start thinking that time spent curled on the couch with a book frivolous leisure time, less meaningful than time spent clicking away at the keyboard, constructing jagged sentences about blue shadows falling long across bright snow. Have no doubt: I’ll devour books by the authors I love (mostly contemporary writers: Kingsolver, Diddion, Munro, O’Brien) and I’ll jealously leaf through books by new authors who are rising like sudden shiny stars into the literary sky. But I’ve rarely gone back to the masterpieces, the ones that have endured: prose and plot and construction indelible and profound across time. And lately, as I’m grappling with my own writing more and more, I’ve started to feel a hunger for these texts: knowing that as I read them, I’ll be carried across time, into the world of ideas, word by word.

Word by word, closer to what I need to know.

So I’ve decided to make this my year of reading. This, simply, is my mondo beyondo and my one little word. Read.

{ Tell me: What two books most changed the way you see the world, writing, life, etc?}