On the phone my cousin asked me “What are you reading?” and I was stunned into momentary silence because this isn’t a question I’m often asked. Knowing his reading is as vast as the prairies I was afraid to answer “short stories” for the only form less appealing to the reading world is poetry.
“Truth is like poetry and most people fucking hate poetry.” – from The Big Short
I’m also reading poetry but I didn’t tell him that.
I read short stories because they are quick and I can finish one at bedtime and be satisfied. I read poetry for the opposite reason: Poetry slows me down. A single word like “thestered” in Nocturn by W.H. Auden stalls me, brings me to a moment of concentration that I can’t find in my job, or my family life as I ping-pong from one task, one thought, one imperative to the next.
In reading a novel I’m absorbed in movement from page to page, poured out by plot, needing to advance to the next chapter and the next and the next. I don’t pause. I need to finish. It is a hurry-up read.
My non-fiction reading comes in compact literary magazines and on-line journals. How do you explain this to a man who uses books as coffee tables and coasters and foot stools? A man who lives far back in the bush on Vancouver Island and lives on a pension smaller than a cherry tomato but who lives an interior life larger and richer than anyone in Trump Tower?
We talk books together because this is what he talked about with my mother. He assumes I must be a reader too and he is right. I like this triangulation that connects my mother to him and to me across time, across space and skirts the absence of my long dead mother. I like this unseen legacy given by my mother to her children, a legacy that, more than anything else, makes us richer than our bank accounts will ever show.