i may be old but i can still read
Alec’s post got me thinking. See: in a couple months, I’ll be a decade older than Alec. A decade! Whereas those of you already past your twenties will kick me for saying it: I’m already mourning the loss of my youth. I’ve been mourning it since I turned 24! (And to be fair, I didn’t really start writing until then…)
But why? Why are people so revved up about Alec’s post? Why is age such a sensitive issue?
One day, I’ll probably look like this:
I’m getting off point though.
There are virtues in being young, sure. Virginia Woolf thought the best “season” for reading was between 18 and 24. I’m way past my reading prime! And the truth of it is, I care a lot more about my “reading prime” than my “writing prime.” Writers can write whenever. There’s no cap, no time limit. If anything, when I’m as old as the woman in the picture, I’ll look back on the all books I published in my 20s and be appalled. Or at least I hope that happens.
Alec’s post was really great though. I think about guys like Alec & Ken, etc., and I’m impressed that they’re reading & writing what they are. When I was 19-20, I was still reading shit. My idea of “innovative” was Saramago, Anne Carson, Jeanette Winterson (not that I’m dissing on any of these writers!). These guys are reading much more broadly & doing much cooler things than I was at their age.
But basically, I’d like to ignore Alec’s question about what it means to be a young writer and instead focus on what it means to be a young reader. Last year, I suddenly realized that I’m not very well read. I’d always fancied myself as a broad reader, but when it comes down to it, I haven’t read that much, and being an academic & in a relationship limit reading time. So I decided to try to play catch up. I read a bunch. I started with some Frankfurt school. That took me back to Foucault, that took me back to Nietzsche, that took me back to, that took me back to, that took me back to… until I was reading the Greeks. And then, I realized I’ll never catch up. I took notes. Lots of notes. Filled up maybe 8-10 notebooks, maybe more, worth of notes. (I read library books so I couldn’t write marginalia.) Read a book a day. But alas! It really did feel like I’d passed my reading season, back when I could absorb rather than struggle.
Or maybe Woolf’s quote made me think I’d passed my prime & it became prophecy.
But I’ll leave you with this: (1) I’m still reading, whether I’m past my season or not, & I’m reading a lot; and (2) Woolf says, “For the true reader is essentially young. He is a man of intense curiosity; of ideas; open-minded and communicative, to whom reading is more of the nature of brisk exercise in the open air than of sheltered study.”
What is reading to you?