Tonight on Bill Moyers he was interviewing the ever eloquent Maxine Hong Kingston about writing and peace. To be honest, I was sort of listening with it in the background while I tried to catch up on email in my inbox (still haven't succeeded yet). However at one point Ms. Kingston was talking about a tragedy she suffered in the early 90s when her father died and after burying him she came home to find her house burned to the ground and the one manuscript she had of the book she had just finished writing in ashes. "I quit writing...I even quit reading," she said. The trauma was so great that this person who is so gifted at articulating tragedy was not only silenced but couldn't even read.
It made me pause from my email for a moment to wonder if trauma is part of why I haven't been able to read books the last year or so.
I know some of it has been a physical problem. Holding a book is hard. So I bought a book holder. But that hasn't changed my reading habits much (though I have been able to use it for my chronically overheating laptop). I have started to suspect that I might be very sensitive to mold as the books I have managed to finish in the last few years have all been brand new while I can't make it more than a few pages into a Kinky Friedman novel that's a county-library reject. Other used books sit on my shelves only partially read.
I don't seem to have as difficult a time reading online, probably because most material online is short -- the equivalent of only a few pages. It's a good fit for my psychometrically-tested concentration problems. And I'd imagine mold doesn't like laptops as much as paper.
Reading online feels far more like a communal act than reading a book. Blogs and articles frequently include comments, even if I only lurk. Reading a book is a lonely act, especially if you're too tired to talk or write about it afterwards. And God knows I'm already isolated enough.
But in regards to the trauma question, I know my emotions play a part. I still have a lingering anger that I can't simply get lost in a book for hours and hours like I used to. I'm used to sitting down and reading a book in one sitting, or perhaps a few sittings. I hate that I can only manage a half hour here or an hour there. It's too much of a commitment. Too much disjointedness. Too much reality intruding into whatever fictional world I'm trying to join. A reality that reminds me my brain just doesn't work like it used to.
One of Talal's research areas has been trauma theory and he's explained to me that trauma occurs when an event questions one's identity. Picking up a book I suppose is a reminder of my old identity that I miss very much.
What's funny though is that while A. has suggested that we move the books into storage to see if that might help me feel better if the problem really is that I'm sensitive to mold, I've been very reluctant. Not just because practically I don't think it's really going to be worth the effort in the long run as we're still going to be left with plenty of mold spores in the apartment. But it would also be like taking away the only friends that remain with my in my loneliness. It's comforting somehow to look up and see Anna Karenina there or the Cairo Trilogy there or A Theology of Liberation there. As well as hopeful since the first and last of those I haven't yet read but hope desperately that some day I will.
Right. This has been a bit of downer. And in some ways it has been a hard couple of weeks being so lethargic from the medication. What's been weird is that on the one hand, I'll find myself getting disoriented so easily. Yet the last few nights I've also been having moments of clarity that I haven't had in a long time. Like, I've thought of my thesis for the first time in months.
And there has been one bit of good news: my case worker has increased the number of hours my caregiver is here from 4 to 10 per month. When my case worker came on Monday to do his yearly evaluation he greeted me with "you look like you feel awful!" (I did.) That means clean laundry every week! Yay!