A Ritual Called Reading

I’ve been chastised and persecuted and ridiculed in public to the point where I have to go underground in order to practice a ritual that is so frowned upon by society I dare not reveal it to anyone…

…ok, maybe to you.

Here it goes…

I don’t read novels the same way most people do.

Friends have screamed,”but you ruin the ending that way!” ” Why would you do that? That is not how you’re supposed to read a book!” ” It’s just wrong!” ” You’re a freak!” And I am not giving way to melodrama here…these are direct quotes, most of them from loved ones.

Granted I am the type of personality that hates surprises. When I was a kid, and Mom and Dad where out, I’d search the house high and low to find my Christmas gifts. And I don’t particularly like going to movies because I can’t skip ahead or fast forward to the end of the movie, watch the resolution, then rewind the flick back to where I left off.

I much prefer DVD’s for this reason.

When I start a book I don’t just flip to the first page of the first chapter. Rather my reading ritual is to scour all the publication or newspaper acccolades (snippets that are listed on the first page or two of some books, or sometimes grace the back cover). I’m not sure why I want to know other opinions before I come to my own but if one of the accolades is from an author I admire, I’m more likely to purchase the HARDCOVER of the intended book. I then usually read any author information, or book club or readers club suggested questions and answers if they are included in the publication. Finally I read the interview with the author at the back of the book if there happens to be one.

Then, and only then, do I settle in and read the first quarter or first third of a novel. Next I flip to the back and read the ending. Now I don’t just leave it at that. I DO go back and continue from where I left off. I do have a genuine interest in seeing how the author gets to his final plot destination.

Who’s to say an author’s true intent is to have his or her novel read from front to back, beginning to end, following the story in order of the page numbers?

I’d like to think I do this is because I enjoy the journey of the read as well as the destination. There have been a couple of books where skipping to the end has given me NO clues to the resolution of plot. “Boys in Trees”  by Mary Swan being one and “Four Letters of Love” by Niall Williams being the other and I still enjoyed both immensely.

Is there a proper way to read a book?

Harold Bloom writes in the preface of his book How to Read and Why : “There is no single way to read well, though there is a prime reason why we should read… Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you, because it is the most healing of pleasures. It returns you to otherness, whether in yourself or in friends, or in those who may become friends. Imaginative literature is otherness and as such alleviates loneliness.”

To me, reading a novel has become almost ritualistic. A comforting routine that allows me, as Bloom suggests, solitude without loneliness.

What is your reading ritual?

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