About three years ago, we launched an occasional feature in our monthly e-mail newsletter called "Why I Read." We asked authors, mostly local, to answer that seemingly simple question. The replies were as varied as the question allowed: from the quirky (Dave Eggers) to the earnest (Joyce Maynard), from the episodic (T.C. Boyle) to the hilarious (Kim Wong Keltner). It seems as good a time and forum as any to release these brief essays to the larger world, i.e. the vaunted blogosphere.
Today's "essayette" is by New York author Susan Choi. Her latest novel--A Person of Interest--which was our February 2008 Book of the Month, is just out in paperback.
"I read because when I don’t, I grow inarticulate and and I walk into doorframes. It’s like when I don’t drink black tea in the morning, and in fact, if I down lots of tea I can somewhat combat the impairments, but unless I also read, pretty soon I’m right back where I started. Or else I get a headache, and tightness in the chest, like the feeling of not enough carbs, and again, if I eat some spaghetti the symptoms abate, but if I don’t also get to a book, the relief is short-lived. I read because if I don’t I’m short-tempered, short on imagination and the sense of delight. I’ll feel the way I do when sleep-deprived, so much so that an unbroken night’s sleep – even more rare than an unbroken hour to read – can go some way toward blunting my longing to read, but can’t cure it; no substitute can. Ever since having children, my existence has seemed winnowed down to my physical needs: the need to sleep, the need to eat, the needs for caffeine and aspirin, the need to lie on the couch with a book. I’m not metaphorizing: the last is as physical as all the others. No minute during which I might read can go unutilized. At lunch I’m always roving the house, loaded plate in my hand, trying to relocate my book while my meal goes cold. If I come by a few minutes’ peace – in the post-office line, on the subway – and don’t have a book, I can get so annoyed that I cry! I read because I can’t manage not to – and because it’s the one bare necessity that is also a gorgeous indulgence. It’s the food that’s a banquet, the rest that’s a pageant of dreams." --Susan Choi