June 14th 2019
Today, for the first time in a long time, I finished reading a book. I frequently flit between actually reading books and wanting to be the kind of person who reads books. For all of this year I’ve struggled to read 1984 but persisted because I feel like it’s a book that I should have read. But fuck what I should have read. What about what I want to read?
I think that’s why I don’t read as much as I should, or as much as I’d like to, because quite often I get stuck on books that I should read. Now, 1984 isn’t a bad book, and I do actually really enjoy the plot-driven parts of the book, but there are big long socio-political commentary sections within 1984 that make it a difficult read. And, again, that political commentary is something that you should read — especially in this current climate, because Orwell was basically spot on with his predictions, he was just slightly premature — but that doesn’t mean I actually want to.
I started reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas the day before I went on holiday last week, and consumed it in any spare moment I could find. And, if you’ll permit me to pretentiously turn that phrase, it consumed me. I loved it. I was enthralled in it. Reading Cloud Atlas was a joy and a mystery and an adventure, and an education in genre and style. And I didn’t mind that the ending kind of disappointed me, because the fact that I cared enough to be disappointed showed that I was invested in the book in a way that I haven’t been in a long time.
It’s a really brilliant book. Sometimes Mitchell tries a bit too hard to remind you how clever he’s being, and just to really hammer down his opinions and raise up the meta, he resorts to the most obvious and egregious author-insert since Kilgore Trout in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five (my all-time favourite ‘classic’).
I tell myself that the reason I didn’t finish To Kill A Mockingbird is because I struggled to interpret the dialect, and it made it hard for me to read, but in reality the reason I didn’t finish it is because I didn’t want to read it. I just wanted to say that I’d read it. And that’s bad.
Cloud Atlas is perhaps worse for hard to decipher dialect (with way, way too many apostrophes), but when you’re invested in the story you kind of don’t care about it. I wasn’t invested in To Kill A Mockingbird, I just feel like I should have read it. And that made it hard to read.
Cloud Atlas was not hard to read, because I actually wanted to read it. And that makes all the difference.
Until tomorrow, “the mind abhors a vacancy, and is wont to people it with phantoms”.