Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reading Man in the Woods

Posted by Amy Baranski

I finished!

Over the past 48 hours I've learned a lot about myself and my reading habits. I basically procrastinated reading my first novel of the month until two days before it was "due".

I read Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer. I've never read any of his works (he's a best selling author of Endless Love and a Ship Made of Paper), and I had never heard of him until I ventured into Elliot Bay bookstore this winter looking for Christmas gifts. I decided to treat myself to a novel that was staff-recommended as a "haunting thriller." What better way to get back into reading than to start with what seemed like a page-turner?

But the first 11 pages felt like the most excruciating of my life. The unsympathetic character Will (a man with many aliases) is introduced and even though the guy was running from something, it just felt unconvincing). Of course, because I am 12 years old, or 17 still, it wasn't until the first sex scene that my interest piqued. Finally something of note was being written about like a secret in a book that only the reader gets to know because she's stuck around long enough. Call me prurient.

Trying to capture a mini-flow experience on the metro.
Overall, the book was interesting and well written. I wonder if it will be adapted to a screenplay for a movie. This seems right as I discovered two of Spencer's novels Endless Love and Waking the Dead were adapted to films.

Interestingly, for some reason throughout the entire book I imagined it was Fall, and was consistently startled by descriptions of the sun and the blazing East Coast summer heat. Although one scene with a homegrown vine ripened tomato and basil salad was deeply moving, and made me want summer so bad.

The book actually makes it's way through all the seasons. I don't have much criticism to offer or ground breaking insight. The characters struggle with crises of faith, crises of humanity, committing crimes, covering them up, love--and what feels like an empty artifice around it. These all seem like worthy literary themes for a novel yet somehow I don't feel changed by the book .

I do feel changed by the reading process however. Here are some of the things I learned about myself along the way (the short 48 hour way):

  • I average 46 pages per hour.
  • It took me about six hours total to read my current book.
  • That would have been an hour a day had I methodically read each day.
  • When I set down to do it, I do it.
  • But I bargain with myself. 
  • E.g. I deserve to have a cookie after this chapter.
  • I am easily distracted by my smart phone and all genera of social media.
  • I am easily distracted by the moods and requests of other people.
  • But I feel most self-actualized when I am in a flow experience (like sustained reading).
  • When my mind wanders while reading I feel guilty and re-read the passage until I'm paying attention.
  • The end always comes more quickly than I ever expect it to.
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