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"I never feel more here than when I am immersed in some author's somewhere else."

I read a lot of books, well over a hundred a year, maybe twice that. I rarely remember anything I read, not in any detail, but then I try to avoid the types of books requiring me to remember much. I almost exclusively read fiction because it seems much more real, although there's not really any genre BUT fiction since even so-called non-fiction gets filtered through authors who perhaps unavoidably fictionalize whatever they put down, wrapping their stories in the trappings considered appropriate to "real" storytelling: hero, journey, challenges, and triumphant return. I consider myself an exacting reader in that I only rarely finish a book unless its prose pleases me, either in construction or concept. I consider myself to be a prose chameleon, my own writing quietly influenced by whatever I happen to be reading at the time, so I'm careful to quickly discard trash. I read all the time.

I'm in and out of the library several times each week, often daily. I scrupulously return any book I've finished the same day I finish it or the very next day at the latest. I always figure someone might be waiting for me to put it back into circulation.
I very much prefer borrowing books from my library over buying books, though there was time earlier in my life when I gauged both my viability and my prosperity by the number of titles my personal bookshelves held. Whenever The Muse and I relocated, my books contributed by far the largest volume (measured by weight) of personal possessions moved. I've contributed to library book sales over the years, trying to prune down this anvil chained to my ankle; largely unsuccessfully.

I consider books to be an essential if largely ephemeral element of my life. I cannot imagine myself without at least one volume accompanying me. I mail library returns when traveling. I'm only itchy when between books, and I'm a sorry sight then. I feel a sense of real accomplishment when I finish with a book, and I believe I finish with rather than simply finish books. When I'm done with one, I'm done with it. I believe that I've only ever encountered a spare handful of books that I felt compelled to possess, as in own, once I finished with them, ones where the 'finished with' became more of a 'never really recover from' experience. A spare half-dozen, perhaps, which so rocked my world view that I couldn't bear to be without them nearby forever after.

Every one of those books came into my life as a fortunate accident. I stumbled upon them. No well-received review influenced my acquisition. Most often, I found them when taking the old lateral slide along a shelfful of titles and that one somehow popped out. I usually began reading them without any more than the usual anticipation. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. People recommend books to me all the time and, truth told, I almost never follow up on their recommendations, though I deeply appreciate their intention. I disregard their invitations because I know how extraordinary books come into my possession and recommendations never have been one of the ways. I gotta stumble upon them myself.

The library serves as my source. I only rarely ever enter a library knowing what I'm looking for there. Of course I'm always looking for something to inspire me, to move me, to elevate me, but I rarely ever know what that particular book might look like. When I do know, I reserve it online and slough off to the Reserved section, then escape without having experienced any of the usual adventure I associate with visiting a library. I'm just collecting then. A genuine library visit involves a purposefully aimless search, one spent looking here and there hoping to find something that catches my eye: a familiar, old-reliable author, an alluring title, who knows what might attract my interest on any particular visit? I'm on the prowl.

I'd think that after years of dedicated reading, I might at some point feel as though I've crossed that line between clueless and at least somewhat clued-in, but it hasn't yet happened, perhaps due to my remarkably short memory retention. Since I don't remember the content (often, not even the author), I do sometimes arrive back at The Villa to discover that I've already read one of the titles I just checked out. I might even choose to read that one again. I am not accumulating anything by reading so much, but perhaps assimilating something. The very act of reading seems to inspire me to write, not as competition with any author, but perhaps in solidarity. I am a writer, which means that I'm also (and first) a reader of many and varied books. I never read them expecting them to tell me anything, but rather hoping each might immerse me in something, some somewhere. I never feel more here than when I am immersed in some author's somewhere else.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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