Even when I can’t get excited about much else, I can get excited about reading

17402288I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret: being a writer is not very eventful.

Like, seriously, nothing ever happens. I mean, I get a rejection every other day. And an acceptance every two months, maybe. And every few months there’s also some slow incremental progress on getting my novel published (hearing from my agent, sending him a revision, etc). But other than that, there’s really nothing. It’s actually kind of boring.

I suppose that you publish a novel, there are a few more events: you get requests for interviews and you give readings and you get fan-mail and you engage in Twitter feuds with other up-and-coming writers. But really, I think it’s probably still pretty uneventful.

Most jobs are not as uneventful as writing. Most jobs have meetings! And targets! And deadlines! And crunchtime on a project!

In most jobs, stuff happens every single day.

It’s definitely not that way with writing.

Sometimes when I am doing my writing, I think, “Huh, well. I guess I’m just going to, like…keep doing this. And it’s never really going to be that much different from this…”

It’s a very weird feeling. I think that’s why a lot of writers make their own excitement, by drinking alot or feuding with people or engaging in other crazy shenanigans.

Anyway, you know what is exciting?

All the books that I’ll get to read. Every time I get to the end of a book, I become so overwhelmed with the sheer sense of possibility: I could read any one of miiiiiiillions of books.

I’ve actually become very picky. I will read the openings of ten or twenty books (something that the Kindle makes very easy) before I find the one that I am in the mood for.

Recently, I finished Grahame Greene’s The Quiet American (which I guess is a spy novel? It is a very strange one, though), and began reading Jenny Offill’s Dept. Of Speculation. This is a pretty weird book. There’s sort of a story there–a love story–that’s mixed up with all these strange facts and asides, like the following:

I got a job checking facts at a science magazine. Fun facts, they called them. The connected fibers in a human brain, extended, would wrap around the Earth forty times. Horrible, I wrote in the margin, but they put it through anyway.

Random facts?! That’s all you need to tell a David Markson fan like me (although this sort of collage technique actually dates back at least the citizen chapter of Ulysses, and I’m sure that some nerd out there can find an even older example of it). Actually, I picked up this book after reading about it in the New York Review of Books, because that is just the kind of monster that I’ve become.

But anyway, the book is so short that I already get to think about what else I might read. Fun fun fun.

Living in the open air is a very different experience

I’m currently reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and I’m liking it very much. Graham Greene is funny, he made a distinction between his “serious books” and his “entertainments” that seems completely nonsensical to anyone except (presumably) for him. I think that The Quiet American is an entertainment, while The Heart of the Matter is a serious book, even though they’re kind of the same book.

Anyway, what I’ve been struck by in reading the book is how it all takes place in the open air. Even when you’re inside, the air and noise of the outdoors are flowing through your environment. It’s interesting. And very different from the way we live in the U.S. Here, the windows are almost always closed. Even now, when it’s relatively temperate throughout the United States, I imagine that most people are like me and are keeping their windows closed and their houses climate-controlled. The only place (that I’ve been) where people keep their windows open is California. I know that when I was an undergrad, our dorms had neither air-conditioning nor (I believe) any heating, so we tended to have windows open all the time.

There’s something atavistically satisfying about being able to feel the wind and smell the breeze and hear the birds. It’s not necessarily a comfortable thing (I wouldn’t and don’t choose to do it), but there’s a part of me that’s happy when I’m forced to.