Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In the Mood

Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary in 1925:

There are moments when all the masterpieces do no more than strum upon broken strings. It is very rare--the right mood for reading--in its way as intense a delight as any; but for the most part pain.
While I don't find the right mood for reading to be rare, I must agree that there are moments when even a masterpiece seems like poorly written trash if I am in the wrong mood. That is the reason I read so many books at once, there is always something to read no matter what my mood is. In this way I usually avoid the painful times when good books turn bad. The painful times are not always avoidable though. Who hasn't been excited about reading a book only to get halfway in and realize you aren't enjoying it? This happened to me a number of years ago with Middlemarch and The Golden Notebook. I began each of them with high interest and expectations. I ended up forcing myself to finish Middlemarch and completely abandoning The Golden Notebook. I have not given up on them though. As much as I wanted to read them, my mood was not right. But I have been feeling lately like the right mood might be quietly growing in a corner somewhere and when it's ready it will find a way to let me know. As for the mood to read, the rarity is not feeling like reading. The not reading mood struck me last night. I am a homebody and a creature of habit so generally sit down to read about the same time every evening. When I sat down last night I just stared at my books waiting for my mood to tell me which one to pick up. Nothing stirred. I picked up Proust and put him right back down. I picked up Joyce, read a few words, and put him down. I could see where this was going--nowhere. I resigned myself to not reading and stared off into space for a little while before pulling myself together. What's a person to do when not in the mood to read? Usually I play a mindless computer game or try to find something on television. But I was tired of looking at screens all day and couldn't bear the thought of either choice. Knitting would be another alternative but it's too hot to think about working on my half-done sweater. At moments like these I turn to magazines but the only magazines I had were book review papers. Strangely enough, when I am not in a reading mood, reading about books is an acceptable alternative. Being behind on my New York Review of Books turned out to be a good thing. I am glad the mood not to read doesn't strike often. When it does I get a bit cranky. The silver lining is that tonight I am ravenous for reading. Now comes the pleasure of figuring out what book will fit my mood.