read vs write

I had a bit of a random thought the other day about reading and writing. I feel like I’ve written a post about this before, but I can’t seem to find it (not that I looked very hard), so please excuse me if you’ve heard this all before. (*Tangent Alert* It’s kind of like when you’ve told a story so many times to so many different people that you forget who you have and haven’t told, and then you kind of have to decide whether or not you want to go ahead and risk re-telling a story that people have already heard before. I know a few people who do this quite a bit, but they’re such fun to talk to, I usually don’t mind, or I’ll just subtly hint that that story sounds familiar…)

I had a conversation with a friend quite some time ago about the relationship between the love of reading and the love of writing. This particular friend loves to read, and reads a lot. I’m pretty much the same. However, she does not like to write, whereas I clearly love to write (I’d assume most people who write blogs like writing too). At the time, I remember thinking this was a bit odd, but I kind of just accepted it because, you know, “each to their own” and whatnot.

In recent weeks, while discovering new food blogs, and watching cooking shows like “MasterChef” and “Everyday Gourmet” and a variety of foodie shows on SBS, I had a thought that maybe the reading/writing relationship could be analogous to the eating/cooking relationship. Eating and reading both feed the soul. Cooking and writing can be such rewarding experiences that enrich the lives of those who undertake these tasks.

If someone likes to eat, and they’ve had delicious meals prepared for them all their life, I’d think it’d be reasonable for them to be inspired to learn to cook and create tastey dishes of their own. Likewise, if someone likes to read, it would not be out of place for them to be inspired to write – right?

I also reckon that people who love to write would also love reading; just as people who love to cook would certainly love to eat. I’ve never met someone who disproves this, but feel free to be the first. So much of cooking is tasting the components of the dish as you prepare it, ensuring everything is balanced, and the flavours are right. So much of writing is re-reading and editing your sentences so that the text flows as it’s intended. It’s hard for me to imagine someone who loves to write but detests reading (it makes me shudder just to think that anyone might detest reading at all, irrespective of their feelings toward writing).

The more I thought about this, the more I realised that the analogy could be expanded to include so many other things. For example, most human beings like music of some variety, but not everyone has an inclination toward singing or playing musical instruments. We can appreciate music (which also feeds the soul, by the way) without having an urge to sing or pick up a guitar or take up piano lessons. However, I don’t think it’s possible for a musician to not like listening to music. The analogy works, right? And it can probably be applied to most performing arts, and art art like paintings and sketches and whatnot.

Perhaps what determines whether you like both the process and the end-product, or whether you appreciate the end-product with minimal interest in the process – perhaps what it all boils down to is inspiration. It just depends on whether or not you reach that magical level of inspiration, where you’re moved to take action. (Sometimes I feel like I’m pretty easily inspired, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it also means there are a lot of things that I want to do.) I could hypothesise that it might also come down to natural talent or affinity, but things like writing, cooking, drawing, etc can all be practised and perfected over time (although generally people seem to prefer doing things that they’re naturally good at).

One last thing – I think reading makes one’s writing better, and writing can improve one’s appreciation of reading. Likewise, eating can help improve one’s cooking, and cooking is likely to enhance the eating experience. Each pair works synergistically.

reading quirks

In the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot of book-related blogs, and I’ve read about other people’s various reading quirks. This has subtlely prompted me to mentally catalogue my own quirks. Of course, the natural progression from this, me being me, is to do a post on it! So here we go…

Paperback vs Hardcover

This is one that’s stood out for me because although most people seem to prefer hardcover, I would much rather paperback. I will admit that I reckon hardcover probably looks better – on a desk, on a shelf, in one’s arms – but paperback novels are easier to read (in a practical sense). Also potentially a sentimental thing going on here, since I’ve grown up reading paperback novels; they’re just easier to take anywhere and read anywhere. Perhaps if I grew up reading hardcover, my preference would be different…

Concurrent reading

I used to never read more than one novel at a time. However, I think this changed when I read ‘The Name of the Wind’ (by Patrick Rothfuss). This is definitely not to say that it was dragging on or anything like that (I thoroughly enjoyed reading TNOTW!) but the actual book was so big that it was difficult to read on my daily commute, so I just read it at home. However, since I didn’t want to waste commute time by not reading, I started reading a second book, which may or may not have been ‘Great Expectations’. I don’t really remember; I just think this is how it started. Anyway, point is that I now tend to have at least two books on the go at any one time. You know, just to mix it up a bit. I do find, however, that I will still tend to focus more on one book over the other(s).

Re-reading

Speaking of ‘Great Expectations’, it is actually the only book that I’ve intentionally re-read (technically, I’m still in the process of re-reading it, but I’m almost done…) There are plenty of books that I intend to re-read one day, but there are so many wonderful books that I haven’t read! As far as I know, I’ve only once accidentally re-read a book. It was in my high school years, and I was a fair way into the book before I realised. By that time, I figured I may as well finish it before moving on. For interest’s sake, some of the books I’d like to re-live include ‘Vanity Fair’, the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’.

Reading on the go

As already alluded to, I am lucky enough to be able to read on the bus/train without getting motion sickness. Unfortunately, there are random days when I do get a bit nauseous, and I don’t really know why. Cars are definitely a resonant no for reading. Planes are fine. I have not yet tried boats, but I don’t like my chances.

Mint condition

I like keeping my books in near-perfect condition. This becomes hard when I have to take – wait, “have to”? Well, not really have to, but kind of have to, anyway; I’d rather pull out a book when I’m bored than pull out my phone. Does that put me in a new category of anti-social? Well, anyway, it is hard to keep a book in mint condition if I’m transporting it everywhere in my backpack. I’ve come to accept that a book that looks like it’s been read a hundred times in a hundred different places can be as beautiful as a book that is fresh from the store. I do, however, have an irrepressible need to straighten out folded corners, and people who fold in the corner of a page to mark where they’re up to really bother me. Please use a bookmark or something.

Is it just me…?

I don’t know how/when this developed, but usually when I read and come to turn the page, I will glance at the page numbers to ensure that I’m not accidentally skipping a page. A friend once pointed out that I’d probably notice if I skipped a page just by the obvious fact that the sentence/paragraph would not make sense. A good point, but that still doesn’t stop me from glancing at the page numbers.

Happy places

My favourite place to read is at home: in the comfort of my bed, on the sofa, or at my desk. It’s best if there’s just a bit of background noise, but not enough to grab my attention and distract me. Music can be helpful or unhelpful, depending on the song, what I’m reading, and what sort of mood I’m in. I also like to read outside: in the park, by the river, or under a big tree – or perhaps all three! A bit of sunlight, a gentle breeze and a good book. Perfect.

1158 and other numbers

Today was a good day. I know that today was a good day because, after finishing work more or less on time, I had enough energy and concentration left in me to do some reading all the way home. This is good because usually I’m either too tired or distracted, and cannot focus long enough to read more than a few pages.

Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in a previous post already, but my current commute book is “The World According to Garp” (by John Irving). I’m finding it to be a very interesting book so far, to say the least. It’s written quite well – it’s so easy to read – but it’s also incredibly random. More than once I have found myself thinking, “what did I just read…??”

But I’ll write more of a review of it after I’ve finished the full book.

When I was reading it on the bus this evening, I came across the number “1158” in a sentence. For some reason, that tripped me up a bit. I felt like, in that brief second when my eyes scanned over that number, my mind couldn’t decide if it wanted to read it as “one-one-five-eight” or “eleven-fifty-eight” or “one thousand, one hundred and fifty-eight”. The final option sounded better in the context of the sentence (it was about how many pages of manuscript one of the characters had written) but because I’d considered the first two options, I lost a bit of reading momentum.

This is where I almost got distracted and didn’t continue reading. Almost.

I put a mental post-it note on the topic for later revision. What I was interested in wasn’t why I’d considered those first two options (it’s kind of obvious if you know my line of work – I spend all day dealing with numbers in the thousands, and it’s just quicker to read the digits than to read the number in full). What I was interested in was how people say numbers in a certain way.

This kind of relates back to that post from last week about listing things …and also kind of doesn’t. I mean, reading the number “1158” is sort of like reading a list: one thousand, one hundred and fifty-eight. Sure, the order is kind of pre-determined because that’s the order of the digits and whatever. But, theoretically, you could also say “fifty-eight, one hundred and one thousand”. It’s just that no one does that because it sounds weird and is confusing. I suppose it sounds less weird if it’s a two-digit number, such as “one and twenty” (21), and the writing style/context suits it.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

I started thinking about other numbers – mostly about numbers without any “tens” or “ones” (gee, I mustn’t have used those terms since, like, grade two), such as one thousand, five hundred (1500). Why don’t people say “one thousand and five hundred”? If it was 5043, it would be read as “five thousand and forty-three” (the “and” mightn’t be properly enunciated, but it’s still there).

So much to ponder about, so little time. Have to go to bed so I can be awake enough to read on the commute tomorrow.

The Angel’s Game

I finished reading “The Angel’s Game” (by Carlos Ruiz Zafon) a couple of days ago, and have been pondering about the ending and the way that the story played out … and I’m still kind of confused. I tried to Google reviews and summaries and stuff, but to no avail – everyone seems just as bewildered. Although, to be fair, I didn’t really try very hard to find deconstructions, etc. I finished the book at night and was kind of tired.

But all that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel. I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive about reading a translated text (the original is in Spanish), as I thought it might lose some of the deeper meaning, magic and emotion. But it was fine. The edition I read (which was translated by Lucia Graves – not sure if there are other translations out there? probably not…?) was so well written. I wouldn’t go as far as one reviewer and say that it read as if it was originally in English, but it was pretty good, and exceeded my expectations.

For a novel that I didn’t find mindblowing or life-changing, I feel like I could write a lot about it – mostly positive, too. It was really different to anything I’ve ever read before (or remember reading, anyway). While there are certain genres and authors I’d probably never tire of, it’s always refreshing to read something that’s just different – the storyline, the characters, the setting, the language. It was all kind of inspiring in a way.

I liked that the novel was about an author. Can’t say that I’ve read many novels about authors, although I’m sure there must be a fair number of them out there. Amongst all the rhetoric and fanciful speeches and whatnot, one of my favourite quotes from “The Angel’s Game” was from Andreas Corelli – something along the lines of “You may think that you understand the lyrics to a song, but it’s the music that makes you believe it.”

Despite how well the novel was written/translated (I still reckon it probably sounds/reads better in Spanish – but that’s beside the point), I did feel like the story was a bit slow at parts – mostly around the middle. And there were a lot of random side characters. Well, ok, all of the characters played some part, but it was a bit hard to keep track of them all. (Not sure if that was affected by how I read it in between/amongst other books and whatnot… Might have been better if I’d managed to read it in a more consistent fashion over a shorter space of time, but it’s too late for that.)

The story did start to pick up some serious pace in the third and final act, though. I’d say it was actually quite thrilling. The ending was still a bit bizarre. I’m not sure that I fully understand it, but it’s not something that I’m losing sleep over either.

All in all, I did enjoy reading “The Angel’s Game”. I probably wouldn’t widely recommend it, but I reckon that if you’ve got a passion for reading and/or writing, it’ll most likely be a worthwhile read.