Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

On My Nightstand

I go to bed a lot earlier than I used to. Back in my public school teaching days I was rarely in bed before 11 p.m. I'd been grading or preparing for classes all evening. Teaching was a seven-day-a-week job for me (plus evenings). Over the years I developed routines--very fixed routines--to deal with all of it.

Just one example (don't want to get all self-righteous on you!). Compositions. The kids would turn in their pieces on Friday, and I would return them the following Friday. I divided the number of kids I had that year (as high as 200; more commonly, 125-150) by the number of days I had for grading. I would start on Sunday--so that gave me five days to grade them all. So that meant up to thirty compositions a day. I would not go to bed until I had that day's quota done; otherwise, I knew I was in trouble. I graded all day long--before school, on my "free" period(s), during lunch (unless I had duty), after school (unless I had play practice or a meeting or something), evenings.

Anyway, them old days is over, and now I'm usually in bed by 7 p.m. I read for an hour, about ten pages in several books. Currently on my nightstand:

  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I confess that I'm not "enjoying" it--not in the sense that I generally enjoy novels. It's a big book (in every way), and there are pages without any paragraph breaks, any dialogue (daunting, even for a bookaholic). It's dense, too. But I have to finish it because I've got kind of a "reading thing" going with a former WRA student who has finished it--and I can not have that! I have passed page 800, and the end is in sight, so I'm feeling some imminent relief.
  • Tobias Smollett's Travels Through France and Italy (1766). After finishing all of Smollett's novels (there are only a half-dozen), I read a biography of Smollett, and the biographer recommended Travels. Well ... it has its moments. Not enough for me. But I'm charging ahead anyhow.
    • I ususally read one "older" writer each night, and doing so has enabled me to read all of the novels by Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray (and Smollett). Waiting next: Wilkie Collins; I've read a few of his--e.g., The Moonstone, The Woman in White--and now I want to read all of them!)
  • Stephen King's 11/22/63 (2011), now being dramatized on Hulu. (I decided to read it before watching--quite a task: It's long.) For a long while I'd kept up with King, reading all his novels as they appeared (except for the Dark Tower series--don't know why?!?); I even reviewed a couple of them for the Plain Dealer. But then I sort of moved elsewhere (not "on," which sounds elitist!)--until I saw the Hulu series was going to commence. I've read about 100 pages (barely making a dent) and am having some fun. I was in my second year of college in November 1963, so I remember so much of the context.
  • Joe Nesbø's latest thriller, Midnight Sun (2015), which I'm enjoying (it's short!). I really like his work--well, most of it--and this one is quite different from his celebrated Harry Hole series.
  • Cori McCarthy's You Were Here (2016), her latest YA novel. Cori went to Harmon Middle School (where I taught--but, sadly, she was not in my class) and to Aurora (Ohio) High School--then on to college and grad school. This novel draws on her experiences in college--and before. I've read about 50 pp and am having a good time, admiring her ...
Lined up to be next--the latest John Irving, another Longmire mystery, plus some other things I'm too lazy to go check on upstairs. Oh, just remembered a couple: a history of the Romans plus the latest by biologist E. O. Wilson.

As I said, I read only 10-20 pp of each of these at night (and not always all of them, depending on weariness). When I was teaching, I was usually too tired to read late at night--though I often did, anyhow. My most ferocious reading came on vacations--and summers.

But now--a retired Old Coot--I read whenever I damn well want to. Which is one of retirement's greatest blessings (not that there are a lot of them ... don't get me started!).

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