Nomadic Reading Room © 2019

Slowly and quickly, too fast, at my desk, in bed, in relation

March 4, 2017

 

When I read signs and labels and websites around me in Greece, I spell out the letters aloud very very slowly, and I most remind myself of being a child spelling out words on signs when I was learning to read.

 

When I read things aloud to myself, I understand them in a more intuitive way because the pace of reading is slower and I can feel the shape of the language more physically through my breath.

 

When I read novels in bed in the evening, I usually can’t stay awake for more than a page.

 

When I read French, I use neural networks that grew when I was a teenager and I think about how else I might have lived if I’d moved to France when I was eighteen.

 

When I read Dutch or German, I am comfortable with not really understanding in a detailed way, but with having an understanding that is more about the shapes and feel of the language: a different kind of understanding and meaning.

 

When I read the news, I often read it on my phone in bed, buses and trains, and I notice that this makes me skim read more, and that I can’t always remember statistics or names or events that have been referenced in the article.

 

When I read something that I find hard, I write a lot of notes in the margins which are me telling myself what the sentences are saying.

 

When I read poetry I read slowly and quickly, too fast, at my desk in moments of doubt.

 

When I read without taking notes, I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve chosen to have that kind of reading experience that day and to enjoy it, to be with the text, rather than attempt to extract something tangible from it to my memory.

 

When I read novels in bed in the morning, sometimes I can’t get up, it’s so compulsive.

 

When I read for reading groups, I often find myself in public places reading, with intent, cramming or luxuriating, but somehow knowing I will think about the text in public makes me look at it in public, as if something particular about being with people matters.

 

When I read about people being kind when I am hormonal, sometimes I cry, as I do if people are kind in real life when I am hormonal.

 

When I read things that people I know have written, I get shivers of excitement that come from both the recognition and the strangeness of experiencing them as a different person, and I feel wonderment at the intricacies of people and how we can only ever know each other partially and moment to moment.

 

When I read things that I love, I can start to feel an emotional relationship with the writer and call them by their first name.

 

When I read about sex, I secrete.

 

When I read things I really really love, I have to read them slowly because each sentence strikes me so hard that I want to linger and luxuriate in its reverberations.

 

When I read certain texts with certain friends, I feel like reading sustains friendships in unexpected ways.

 

When I read things I really really really love, I sometimes have to write them out in handwriting to feel closer to them and I think this is trying to understand them through intimate contact stretched in time between them and my body.

 

When I read the poems of Sonia Sanchez, I hear them in her voice, and I tingle thinking of how hearing her voice in real life made me cry wet wet tears, in recognition of the intensity of love she was describing, and in subsequent awareness of feelings of loss that perhaps I would never experience that intensity again.

 

When I read things I have written, sometimes I am transported back in time to greet another moment of myself and sometimes I feel like an alien wrote it, such is the dis-recognition.

 

When I read text messages from my mum, I think how little I know her in writing because this is a recent development in our communication, and then I think how much easier it is for me to really listen to her though this medium and how much more of her personality I can access through her written descriptions.

 

When I read theory that appeals to me, I find myself overusing key words or forms of phrasing in texts I write in the time afterwards, and, when I read these texts later, I feel a cringe of embarrassment, but I also know that this repetition is me still reading and trying to understand what I have read.

 

When I read about pain, I know I can’t understand it really, and I am thankful for the efforts of the writer to help me come closer to this impossibility that I could otherwise because there is still much to learn from this kind of closeness.

 

When I read Lyn Hejinian’s the rejection of closure, I think about how little I know about writing.

 

When I read Joan Retallack’s rethinking:literary:feminism, I understand why I try to write sometimes.

 

When I read Anne Boyer I feel greedy and in a rush and afterwards I feel stupid for missing so much in my haste.

 

When I read Lisa Robertson, I can only do a page at a time because it is so intense, as spoon fruits eaten in the smallest quantities are, or as umami sauces based on anchovies and marmite and soy sauce are, with bodyfeels that last into the next day — memories of sensations in tastebuds and sentences piercing skin and awareness, mouths watering, brain cells colliding.

 

When I read emails from one friend, I think about how we only know each other from a reading group, how she introduced me to some important books, and how easy it feels to write quite intensely and openly with each other on the basis of this.

 

When I read Michel Foucault, I feel endless, apart from in regard to environmental degradation, because he so lays bare the lie of progression through time as improvement.

 

When I read Sappho, I understand that ancient peoples felt things, not the same things perhaps but not unrecognisable things, and experienced joy and pain.

 

When I read Sylvia Federici, I feel angry and sad at how old the shame I carry is.

 

When I read Sara Ahmed’s blog I get energy to push on.

 

When I read the email that an emerging friend wrote me in the summer after I opened myself with unusual honesty and neediness to become vulnerable to this stranger, I feel acceptance and trust and think I can feel the universe expanding.

 

When I read, I think about how Denise Ferreira da Silva talks about reading as writing, being open to being changed in order to be able to write.

 

When I read I am aware of how partially I can ever understand anything.

 

When I read I am thinking and learning.

 

When I read I am in relation with you.

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