Sunday, October 16, 2005

On Novels

For the most part, I stopped reading novels about six years ago. I have a degree in English Education and I teach eighth grade English Language Arts but I almost exclusively read non-fiction. I've thought a lot about why I do this and there are basically two reasons:

1) I get obsessive about particular topics. Right now it's disability. Before that it was anarchism. Before that it was sixties radicalism - mainly the Black Panther Party and SDS and before that it was String Theory. In the past year I've read about ten books and probably 50 articles on disability. When I've occassionally allowed myself to read something off topic it's been very rewarding. I bought and read most of a book that collected Robert Creeley's poetry. I also read Life of Pi this past summer. But other than these and a few others, it's been all disability, all the time. I did read one novel that was disability-related: "The Body's Memory." That was a nice intersection. I should maybe think about doing more of that.

2) I feel like one can study novels the way I study particular nonfiction topics. I've actually done this a bit. For a while in college I was really into mid-late nineteenth century American Literature - Melville, Hawthorne, Twain, etc. However, since this is a whole project onto itself, I stay away from novels all together. If I was going to read fiction well I would have to study it - I'd have to do author, period, style, or genre studies. That sounds fun but I've got disability to work on right now and I feel like reading novels now would be a distraction, a guilty pleasure - one that I shouldn't, for some reason, afford myself.

And anyway, fiction is so much harder to read. There's usually so much more you have to keep track of and it takes interpretative skills that I've allowed to get rusty. So the more I do stay away from novels, the more I will stay away from novels.

That said, my favorite books are all novels.

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