Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A New World Naked

I’m currently reading A New World Naked, the Paul Mariani biography of the 20th century American poet William Carlos Williams. At the same time, dealing with a lot of life changing stuff-like hey, photography just might be transformed from a mere hobby, a pass time, to something more serious. Because I’m meeting people who actually go out of their way to ask me, ‘So what did you shoot today? Can I see? Please?’ (This is why I was so tentative about starting photography! I’ll soon be taking myself far too seriously, and before long, I will be lost down another rabbit hole of trying to be really, really good at another art form, when I still have the writing to grapple with!)

Anyway, so someone tried to pick up this biography I had laid on a table, to check out the book I was reading, thinking it must be a photography book and nearly sprained his wrist. It is that heavy! Naturally, he asked me (yes, I hate stereotypes, but it was a Ugandan and I was not in the least surprised that he asked), “Why are you reading that? I could never read that.” 

There was a time when such a comment from such a ‘cool’ person would have me hiding such a book away, to make it a guilty pleasure I could only revel in in stolen moments. Not anymore. I know what I like (one of the perks of growing older) and I have discovered that if you are in a taxi traffic jam and you pull out your tome to read, pretty soon, other people around you start pulling out all sorts of things from their handbags and backpacks and whatever to start reading too. So I was not in the least offended by his comment and said, “I have a week to finish that book. I’m reading it whenever I can.” 

Quipped he, “You’ll need to do nothing but read that book to finish it in a week!” 

How so right he was. Without even knowing it. I don’t know if it is just the books I have been reading of late, or that the way I read has changed again. But I have not felt this absorbed, this taken in by the books I have read this year in so many years. When I read a book nowadays, I find myself having mental arguments with the author, reaching for sticky notes to jot down page numbers so I can go back and copy out passages or simply to reread them and write out my own experience of an event described or disagree with a point of view. Lord knows, some books are even beginning to make me question how things are exactly. This is not how I used to read. Okay, maybe not since I was around 17 years old and took reading and writing seriously.
Something happens to you, going through the Ugandan education system (at least it did to me), something crushing and disillusioning. The Ugandan education system and life sometimes team together and when you are through their grinder, many instinctive joys are lost and you may never recover them. I think I have stumbled anew, afresh, upon the joy of reading, of believing in reading, of taking it seriously again. It’s got me wondering about the experience of reading and how do others read. I’m sure reading is an experience and everyone’s experience of reading is so different.


els said...

good reads usually leave me headachey. I guess from crying, or trying not to. or laughing and watnot. Some books get me so exactly, its like they've been stalking me because they know just how I feel about things, they say things that I would. I'm reading Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' whenever Jas can let me. I only get it every other week and I've been reading other books as well but its the one that's promising a headache. (I miss the days I'd forget class, dates, TV, anything, just because I was lost in a book)

Iwaya said...

I wonder if I will like Seth's books when I finally get to them. I have been holding off and holding off from delving into his work because of the hype, the praise-maybe I should overcome my nervousness and hope he does not disappoint :-)

The love of reading is like omukwano gunyuma :-) ebbs and flows, bound to return!

normzo said...

i saw your collection of Photographs at the Bayimba Festival... Photo Exhibition. Good stuff indeed. Go ON.