Friday, 4 July 2008

Reading (and blogging) in my real life

In the last week, two close friends have asked if I've given up blogging. And while the answer's a resounding no the question has made me step back and think about why I've been so silent on here in recent weeks. And why I've been so absent from my favourite blogs.

Initially, my law revision suffocated my reading. It was a gradual process, starting back in April when I'd feel guilty for enjoying fiction when I should have been revising acquisitions law (or some other such topic). By May, I was struggling with books I'd expected to love - books that had sat in my tbr stack next to my bed exuding "read me"-ness, books that I'd read great things about and was excited to pick up (step forward Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Wind-up Bird Chronicles). When I picked them up and turned the pages I knew I was physically reading, I mean my eyes were following the words, but nothing was happening. No veil was descending. Something was blocking me from entering the worlds unfolding on the page. I felt like I was locked out of my favourite place - I could see the good times to be had behind the gate but I just couldn't get in. Reading Lolita was particularly galling, as I could see how much Nafisi loves reading and just knew how much I'd love this book if only I could find the key. Of course, it was my mind's way of telling me that I needed to stop procrastinating and buckle down to some serious revision! Which is exactly what I did. I set aside all the juicy fiction I'm planning to read and kept my reading strictly to the work- and study-related variety.

But no reading meant no blogging as I felt I just had so little to say. And working and studying meant time was at a premium - no time to be browsing happily through the blogosphere reading reviews by bloggers whose taste I've come to respect and admire.

My exams finally finished two weeks ago. After four years of full-time work and part-time law school, I've been more than a little demob happy. I've crammed more socialising into the last two weeks than I did in the previous six months (weekends in Dublin and Edinburgh, a night and day in the Lake District, concerts, drinks & dinners with friends). While slightly dazed (I'm off to Dublin again tonight for another weekend away - my little sister's hen weekend!), I feel like I've emerged from black-and-white into full technicolour splendour, with the colour the exams had leached out of my reading well and truly returned.

The first post-exam novel I finished was With My Lazy Eye by Julia Kelly. While the cover blurb had my hopes high ("the freshest voice in Irish fiction" - John Banville), I enjoyed this less than I was expecting. This first novel follows Lucy Bastonme from childhood to womanhood in 1980s Ireland and London, particularly her relationship with her ever receding father. It's enjoyable, but mainly because it evoked the flavours and sounds of an 1980s childhood so well (reminding me of my own childhood - nothing like a nostalgia read every now and again). Some details niggled me, particularly the use of email in the late 80s and early 90s London office the character works in, but overall an enjoyable read.

The most recent book I've finished is the excellent Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan. I loved this book, becoming fully immersed in the world of the Big House with its characters (six year old Aasha in particular). I ended up reading this as slowly as I could, eking it out as I just didn't want it to end...I'll write up a full review soon but this is definitely one of my favourite books this year, and certainly the best debut novel I've read in a long time. It's been the perfect re-introduction to the joys of reading - savouring the experiences contained between the covers - and there were lots of new words for me to look up too as Samarasan uses language to stunning effect.

So while the last couple of months have presented the biggest challenge to my attempts to find a balance between the demands of work and reading and the choice of blogging - it's a dilemma that I'm sure every blogger faces - it's actually been interesting. It's forced me to think about why I'm doing something, or rather not doing something. There's still a lot of upheaval in the Logophile household - we're moving from London to Brighton next weekend - but now that my reading is back in rude health I'm sure my blogging will follow.

My hand luggage for Dublin has The Dubliners tucked in - a re-read but I've never read it while actually being in Dublin. And Nabokov's Lolita is coming up. In fact, there are too many books I want to read at the moment!


monix said...

Welcome back, you have been missed. I hope the exams went well and that the house move goes smoothly. I look forward to seeing your reviews when you get back into full blogging mode.

Sarah said...

Welcome back, I've missed reading your posts as well. I'm in a similar situation (working full time, studying law part-time and find it hard to do all the things I want to.

I really enjoyed Reading Lolita in Tehran, so hope you try it again sometime. I've got Dubliners in the TBR pile, so will be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

Andi said...

Missed you! Glad things are going well, and if someone is not reading, at least they're socializing!

verbivore said...

Definitely missed your voice and thoughts on books - but very glad you took the time to focus on your exams, that is so important!
Looking forward to your review of Evening is the Whole Day, I hadn't heard of this one before and am always looking for something wonderful and new!

equiano said...

We've all been there done that on the blog hiatus front! Glad you're back and congrats on finishing your exams. Hope the house move has gone well - you must eat at Terre a Terre in Brighton, a wonderful foodie place.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

When I read law I found that the sheer volume of course reading I had interfered with my private reading, I think a lot of law students have that experience if that helps.

In actual practice oddly enough most lawyers don't read in their spare time, I've lost count of the number I've heard who say they don't like to read for pleasure because they have to read for work. I doubt that'll affect you though from looking at your blog (it didn't me), but it can sometimes be a problem for brief periods.

I have found myself that if I'm struggling to read serious fiction due to the amount of work-related reading I have, a dip into genre can really help clear the palate. A bit of crime or whatever, something which requires a little less focus (though some crime novels demand as much focus as anything else I grant) as it can be just that one's ability to concentrate is a bit impaired by having done it already all day.

Logophile said...

Monix, hello! The move's gone well but no internet at home so I'm having to sneak the internet at work when I can. The best thing is that I have hours of uninterrupted reading on the train each day.

Sarah, I take my (imaginary) hat off to you with the work/study and still finding time to read so many wonderful books! I'm going to definitely give Reading Lolita in Tehran a go again!

Andi, am enjoying reading all your blogging!

Verbivore, I'm also glad when I stumble across a debut I love (I think of all the years of reading their books ahead of me!). And I loved Evening is the Whole Day!

Equiano, thanks for the Terre a Terre recommendation - I walked past it on the way back from the station the other evening. One to check out this weekend I think! And congrats on your own happy news - I hope you're enjoying the early the first weeks of your daughter's life!

Max, am glad to hear of a lawyer who still reads for pleasure - v inspiring! And it was interesting to check out your blog - I like that your audience is a future you...I think that's a big reason I started blogging too.