From my day-to-day reality, I long to escape. I’ve been waiting for winter to end (I live down under) so I can load up the four-wheel drive and head into the country to light a fire, build a camp, and catch my dinner; boy’s own stuff. Yet in my reading, I struggle with such tales. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was something I thought I’d love, but which never really took my imagination with it. I’m afraid we parted ways when we reached Denver. And of Hemingway’s writings, I was most captivated by his self-reflections in A Moveable Feast than anything else. Writerly journeys are perhaps not for me. I don’t think I enjoy the ride.
What I seem to love though are books that reach deep into the human condition. Characters, both man and boy whose fragility is their strength, who may not travel widely but venture into the depths of who they are.
A couple of months ago I picked up a copy of Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. I’d shelved it because I’d a few others on my list to get through first. This morning I impulsively pulled it from the shelf to read something non-work related; to escape. Instantaneously I loved it. Two scenes in, the lead character hasn’t really gone anywhere, but already I know so much about what troubles him. I can’t say the same about Kerouac’s Sal.
So from my recent readings I’ve learned the genres I most want to read are that fictional exploration of who we are and how we have become, or the non-fictional memoirs of mid-life crises and the influences on our lives. That’s not to the exclusion of other genres. And I know I must break out and read more widely. Yet, to know what I love most and to stick with, is new to me. I’ve forever spent my days searching far and wide to find the things I might learn to love, only to be perpetually disappointed and exasperated. Now finally, through my reading and writing, I’m learning that I don’t need to travel to find what I’m looking for. To look deeply at who I am and what I’m about, I need not stray too far.