The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, January 22, 2007

Juggling Reads (and Reads that Juggle You)

By Andrew Tibbetts

I have three novels on the go.

One’s beside my bed. I take in a chapter or two before I nod off. I can’t sleep if I don’t read a bit, since the 70’s.

In my backpack I have a novel which I read on the subway, twice a (week)day. I can’t enjoy the subway unless I have something to read- I get anxious and fidgety, and I end up reading the ads over and over, or scouring under the seats for an old newspaper.

Lately, I use a different bag when I’m going by the gym on the way home. Because I don't like to haul my sweaty gym clothes home in my (quite nice) backpack afterwards. There’s a different novel tucked into the side pocket. This takes four of the ten subway slots away from the backpack novel.

Which novel ends up in which context is a matter of luck and timing. When I’m done one, I replace it. For example, I have Colm Toibin’s “The Master” on deck. If I finish 'bedside' first- Kenzo Kitakata’s “The Cage”- my nights will be spent with Henry James for the next little while; if I finish 'backpack'- Shani Mootoo’s “He Drown She in the Sea”- it’ll be my M-W-F commutes; 'gymbag'- Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”- T-Th commutes. The race is on. 'Bedside' gets more reads, but they are shorter in length. 'Gymbag' gets less days, but sometimes I bring it on to the stationary bike with me and give it an extra hour. Okay, an extra half-an-hour. Okay, an extra twenty minutes.

Very occasionally, I get so caught up in a book that- damn the luggage!- I haul it everywhere: from bedside, to backpack to gymbag, and I’ll even go someplace quiet and read on my lunch. I just had that experience with J. M. Coetzee’s “Disgrace”. I resented everything else that I had to do that took me away from that novel.

That’s the kind of book I want to write. A book that takes over.


Blogger tamara said...

Reading at the gym? Like strapping a weight to it and booking a few reps? You never cease to impress me, AT. I can't read at the gym. When I go, that is. I'm too easily distracted by others' agony and self-consciousness. Their angsty-gyminess soothes me. Erm, when I go...

Mon Jan 22, 01:07:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

HA!!! I was thinking the same thing as Tamara!! I can't even get to the gym, let alone read at the gym, I tried to read the new yorker at the gym, the words jumping off the page!! Kudos to you Andrew.xo

Mon Jan 22, 01:38:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Not on the treadmill, I can't read on the treadmill, or the ski machine, but the stationary bike is so... stationary. I can manage a read on that one!

Mon Jan 22, 04:17:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I'm with you. Got to have several books on the go, to suit my moods. Eventually I finish them but not without great confusion as to whose authorial head I'm in.

Mon Jan 22, 08:47:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I relate so well to this post, Andrew, I am forever starting multiple novels only to get carried away by one (which is great!) but then I forget where I've left off in the others. Some books just can't compare to the great ones :)

Wed Jan 24, 10:49:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I love books that "take over." The latest one for me was Lam's "Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures." I stocked up from the Giller display when I was home in Canada.

Right now, Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" is eating up my time.

Wed Jan 24, 02:41:00 pm GMT-5  

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