Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Violence Against Words

I am currently reading Jack Lynch’s The Lexicographer’s Dilemma, which I will not review here or anywhere else.

It’s not that I think it’s a bad book and have nothing good to say about it and that therefore I will follow the maxim of “if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

Nope, that’s not it. I’m quite enjoying it. I’m about halfway through and I’m looking forward to the second half. Lynch is tracing the the history of attempts to formalize the grammar of the English language. Unremarkably but interestingly there are a lot of class issues in here.

The problem is with how I’m reading. Not all books, just this one right now. Before bed.

Most nights I read before I go to sleep. In spite of what I’ve discovered I’m doing to Lynch’s book, I will continue to do this. Or sudoku. I like it. It’s relaxing. It helps clear my head before trying to shut my brain off.

But Jack Lynch spent a lot of time, I presume, researching and writing this book. And I read a chapter, or part of a chapter most nights. But not all nights.

I am reading Jack Lynch’s words for content. I am not reading his book for its structure. I am not following his larger argument (should he have one; I may be beyond knowing). I am reading it as a series of facts. I am disregarding 80% of his work.

I’m not saying this is wrong or incorrect. I am saying that it is unkind. As a writer, I want readers who pay attention to the full story, not just the plot. In turn, I would like to be that reader for other writers.

I’m afraid it’s too late for The Lexicographer’s Dilemma. I’m going to finish it now and not re-start it. But I do think that in the future, the books I read at night will be books that I’ve read before, things that I can explore in a little more depth on a second pass or relax into without thinking.

It’s not that I’m trying to avoid escapist stories. It’s that I am trying to avoid escapist habits.


3 responses

  1. Pingback: More great reading « east.bay.writer

  2. I don’t agree with that fully. Sure, you get people who execute badly, I’m fully on board with that.

    What I’m saying is that as a reader I’m also capable of executing badly. And in this case, I have done so.

    September 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm

  3. clickerbug

    I believe a writer decides, consciously or unconsciously, how he’s going to lead you through his book. If he wanted you to read for the full story, he’d have done a better job hooking you into it.

    Having said that, I’ve not read the book, but the content (as you describe) is right up there among my greatest passions. Definitely putting this one on my to-read list.

    ps. I can’t turn the light off unless I’ve played at least one game of sudoku on my iphone app. Always on the “easy” setting. Less thinking that way.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:34 am

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