Mar 11, 2016

What would be a Reading Response Journal if I was a kid in high school.

From where I sit under this blanket on the couch at 2 a.m., I am directly in front of my bookshelves. Reading the titles, I find that I can remember details from probably less than half. Is this the fault of my shit memory, or the fault of the authors? Those worlds inside their heads were important enough for them to write down, important enough for them to believe in, important enough to get published.

I mostly remember the emotions attached to the books, which I guess is something. I liked this one. I should probably get rid of that one; I thought it was dull. Some of them are brilliant. I remember those. 

I could stop buying new books and just start re-reading the old ones and my memory would be none the wiser. So why read at all, if I can't remember what I've read? (Because words are like breath, like blood.) 

There is one shelf devoted to books that remain as yet unread. I try not to go over the one shelf, because I am a reader, not a collector. The collection is just the incidental evidence, the reminder, the proof. To merely have is nothing; to have read is everything.  

I have a smattering of novels that I've picked up along the way, the kind of avant-garde post-modern novels that make me furious, whether because I'm either too stupid to understand or they are so academically pretentious, I can't tell. I resisted literary theory in university. The signifiers and the memes meant nothing to me, the Derridas and the Lacans and the Heideggers. I am a formalist and a reader-response theorist at heart: tell me a story, make it good, make me care. I can appreciate form and structure and craft and intent, but without heart, a story is no damn good. 

The book I am currently reading is called I Love Dick. Such a brilliant title! I had such high hopes. I picked it up in a little independent book store in Toronto, and I really should have known better: the publisher is Semiotex(e) Native Agents by The MIT Press, and one of the blurbs on the back uses the phrase "forged a manifesto for a new kind of feminism." File this under I'm-too-stupid or it's-so-pretentious. 

But while I am sort of hating the process of reading this particular novel, it is having an indirectly positive impact on me. I feel like maybe I have an unforged feminist manifesto simmering away somewhere inside me, under the skin and in my subconscious (which is where unforged feminist manifestos lurk before they screech and claw their way out onto the page, obviously). 

Is this the kind of bullshit book I will eventually write? The kind of forgettable but infuriating-at-the-same-time, pretentious, overly-allusive novel I hate? Is it possible to write a feminist manifesto that doesn't make me want to puke? Can I be the one to write such a beast? 

At nearly 3 a.m., the immediate answer is no. But you never fucking know, do you? Until that (unlikely but still possible) day, ah well, and riot on.