It’s a cold day, and this morning there was a thin crust of snow on the ground. The car park was empty, and the lines were hidden, so I chose a spot near the meter and hoped I’d parked in a space. Recently, there’s a man in the coffee shop who sits with a Bible open on his table and says hello to everyone who comes in. I used to sit in that seat, but he started coming a month or two ago, and he gets there even earlier than me, so now I go further back, out of range of his conversation. He’s a talker, not a listener. A person who wants to write, or sit quietly, has to retreat to the warmer rear of the shop, which is a benefit in winter.
I’m making the best of it. Today he was reading lines from his Bible, then pointing up at the ceiling and saying something, presumably to God, then reading another line, and so on. I was impressed by his engagement with the material; envious, in fact. If he were reading Frankenstein, as I currently am, or some other work of literature, he would most likely be an excellent café companion, and watching him I would guess he was an actor performing lines. His biblical fervour makes him toxic. Actually, it’s not the Bible, of course, it’s the fervour. Nobody wants to be fervour-ed at seven-thirty in the morning, not in a coffee shop anyway.
But back to the envy. His engagement with the text in front of him was inspiring. This is an ongoing issue for me, as any long-term reader of this blog will know (and short-term, and, well, any term really). In another attempt to get myself reading ‘good books’, I pinned a tweet on Dec 5: ‘Currently reading: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley.’ I’ve given up on Goodreads as a motivator. The problem is intrinsic, so giving myself extrinsic goals like fifty-two books in a year is just self-flagellation at this point. Twelve days later, I am on page 32.
Life is busy. I am not reading. Then I came across Elisabeth Filips, who runs a YouTube channel whose most viewed video is You’re Not Lazy: How to Live a Chaotically Organised Life. I’ve been around the block several times with self-help, but she had a new take that I really liked. I recommend exploring her work, but the video that got me really excited was about giving yourself permission to read multiple books at once.
This isn’t natural behaviour for me. I like rules. I’ve always picked a book and stuck with it. It might take weeks—months—before I realise I just need to walk away. Give it up. Oh, the psychodrama. The lack of fun. Well, no more. I’m enjoying Frankenstein. The block is the busy-ness of the time of year. But in the New Year I want to embrace reading as the pleasure it should be. A more chaotic pleasure.