But as soon as my 7 hours is done, I put aside the stacks of articles I worked on... and start to read again. This time, for myself. When I am not reading I feel antsy, like something is amiss, that the universe is not aligned properly, that something has horribly, terribly gone wrong. For that matter I never go anywhere without a book or three (hence my penchant for large bags), lest I be caught - heaven forbid - without any reading paraphernalia. I reckon I spend a good 12 hours a day reading, and am perhaps the only one happy when the Metro is running late. I even spend an inordinate amount of time reading labels on cans at the grocery store, stretching what should have been a 30 minute trip to an hour-long excursion. It's a compulsion.
In his first letter to the young poet Franz Xaver Kappus, Rene Rilke bids him to "scale the depths of [his] being" to answer the question every creative being must ask: "Must I write [or paint, or scuplt, or cook, or draw, or create, for that matter]?" Kappus, he says, must go within himself, "search for the cause, to find the impetus that bids [him] write." The test, according to Rilke, is to determine whether "it [stretches] out its roots in the deepest place of [his] heart" and whether or not he can "avow that [he] would die if [he] were forbidden to write."
I don't write poetry, and I'm not inclined to. But I feel like I am answering Rilke's words when I question myself over my book-and-reading obsession (and the attendant expenses that it necessitates). I do feel, in a way, that reading is a highly creative process, for in reading we are asked to create meaning from the words, bounded in turn by the terms, conditions, and definitions set by the very words themselves. Each creation is personal, unique, and will never be the same for different readers. I create my own meaning from reading, even if it is only a meaning.
So, will I die if I don't read? Yes, without a shade of doubt. And not just in any metaphorical or metaphysical or meta-whatever sense of dying. I mean it in a real, absolute, physical extinction.
Hence, I must read.
New books for April!
I should set up a monthly direct deposit to Borders' account.