Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Easy reading

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Lately I've been having trouble reading difficult books. It's likely a result of an annoying case of sciatica, two bruised ribs, the fact our apartment flooded and we're living in our landlord's attic, my summer class got cancelled so I'm out $2700, and we've had a couple deaths recently of close family and friends. Not to complain. I still feel like my brain should be working better than it is.

For the past week or so I've been very slowly reading László Krasznahorkai's Satantango, published in Hungarian in 1985 and only appearing this year in English translation. It's not an easy read. (Béla Tarr and Krasznahorkai collaborated on a seven-hour movie version of the book, to give you an idea of its denseness and complexity.)

If you let them, Krasznahorkai's long, sometimes meandering sentences can sweep you up in a very unique way; his voice lives inside your thoughts and changes how you see the world. This was certainly my experience reading War & War, one of my favourite novels. But his writing can also be exhausting, and I think I've been too tired lately to be made any more exhausted.

So I've been struggling, zoning out, losing my place, forgetting details, giving up and watching videos of top high school basketball prospects instead. Also, I've been doing some easy reading. Henning Mankell is an author whose name I'd always seen everywhere; I just read The Dogs of Riga and really dug it. Sometimes it's nice not to have to do any more work than keep your eyes open, moving down the page.

What's my point here? I don't really have one. Typing these things is kind of exhausting too. Though I guess the guilt I feel, sometimes, at not consistently challenging myself as a reader is a symptom of that same distinction I talked about needing to make in a previous post: I need to separate my anxious writer from comfortable reader a little more easily.

Not everything I read has to make me "better" -- though who's to say Mankell, with his expert handling of plot, might not improve my writing as well. And I think by "reading like a writer" -- that is, with utilitarian purpose, as a student of the book -- might overwhelm why I read in the first place, which is to connect with either things bigger than myself, or the intimate parts of myself I might be ignoring.

Basically, as always, I need to relax.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla’s first collection of short stories, The Withdrawal Method, a Globe and Mail and National Post book of the year, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Trillum Book Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize and longlisted for the Giller Prize. His latest book, People Park, is forthcoming from Anansi in July 2012.

Go to Pasha Malla’s Author Page