Daily Connector | Literally impossible. Literally. | Dan Halterman

I read slower now.  And I read as swiftly as ever.

I was surprised several weeks into “lockdown” and working from (at?) home that I finish a book much slower now.  I love a good book - the only kind I read.  A book on my reading list is there because it promised to interest me when I learned of it.  And my list is important.  It is one of two bookmarks: the list of books I’ve finished in the current year (with the date noted) and the list of books to read.  I read from the top and add desired titles to the bottom, giving a forecast of my reading two years out.  And I scan the list with anticipation each time I cross off or add a title.

A certain day in the late 1970s put me in this place.  I was in Wadsworth’s library to pick out something good.  The new acquisitions shelf was about five feet long, and I quickly selected one book, scanning titles on that short line, then a second.  Then the third called to me and I saw my fate….  I couldn’t keep up with even the new books of a well-stocked small library.  And the supply on the stacks in that small library was beyond a lifetime of reading, even if I could keep up with the recent acquisitions.  A harsh desperation rose – life would be too short; there are too many good books and more are always on the way.  Too little time, when I was 20.

In 1982 I started keeping a list of books I read, now more than 1,100 (a pittance, to me) since then.  I have my list, and I read and enjoy and am glad to get to the next one, not because the last was worse than it promises to be, but to get another hit of good book. 

At Whetstone Library on Friday March 13 before it closed “for at least three weeks” (which seemed optimistic), I took out five tomes on my list that were in that building.  That would be way too many, exceed my normal reading capacity, excess, for three weeks.  I felt a bit greedy, but I was in like company, the atmosphere less panic than relief for the opportunity to stock up.  And I have many books at home – I would be OK even if I made no progress on my list.

And somewhere in these past eight weeks with an altered schedule – which, with inconveniences, is nearly the total cost to me so far – I lost what had for decades been my normal reading urgency.  I’ve lost my normal drive to finish all the books and absorb all that created treasure.  That literally (pun, yes, but not really – there’s no better word) impossible task IS impossible.  “Too little time, life is too short” are both literally (again, intended) true. 

Much thinking about this has yielded no reason for the shift.  Working from home has eliminated 20 minutes of COTA reading time each morning and provides distractions from the normal lunch read.  I’m not anxious about that or the slowed “progress” on the reading list.  That is really weird for me.  Something has changed.