독서

예전에 나는 독서 하는 게 아주 간단했다. 그냥 집에 있는 책 중 한 권을 책장에서 끄집어내 읽기 시작하면 다였다. 초반부에 몰입이 잘 되지 않아도 집중해서 읽다보면 나도 모르게 이야기 속으로 빨려 들어가는 느낌이었다. 만약 정 몰입이 안 되면 읽고 있던 책을 다시 덮어 버리면 끝이었다.

어쩌면 나의 독서생활이 그렇게 순조로웠던 것에는 내가 그 당시에 읽던 책이 그만큼 소와하기 쉬운 책이었던 걸지도 모르겠다. 고등학교 무렵에는 솔직히 내키는 책만 읽었고 (솔직히 이건 아직까지 변함이 없다) 영어를 늘린다는 핑계아래 몇 시간 안에 해치울 수 있는 청소년 소설을 주로 즐겨 읽었다. 그렇지만 지금 생각해보면 그 때의 나는 이야기에 굶주려 있었고, 서양 (특히 미국) 문화에 큰 궁금증을 품고 있었다.

심지어 대학교에 입학하고 난 뒤로도 나의 독서양은 줄지 않았고, 오히려 소설을 현실도피 도구로 사용했다. 그러다가 무시하려야 무시할 수 없는 ‘representation’이라는 개념을 알게 되었고, 현신을 잊기 위해서 읽던 소설 속에서 나 자신을 찾으려고 하다가 나와 비슷한 사람은 주인공은커녕 조연급으로도 나오지 않는다는 걸 알고 갑자기 흥미가 뚝 떨어져 버렸다. 갑자기 책을 읽으면서 내용을 습득하기보다는 그 책의 문제점 먼저 집어내게 되었다. 옛날부터 책을 읽으면서 공감할 수 있다는 게 무척 좋았었는데, 자꾸 밖의 시선을 의식하다 보니 공감의 문이 닫혀버리면서 독서를 해도 도무지 즐겁지 않았다. 책을 읽기도 전에 작가의 출신지, 성별, 성적 정체성을 분석하고 있었고, 이 책이 과연 고전 혹은 현대문학 중에서 클래식에 속하는지 따지고 있었으며 책을 읽으면서도 캐릭터가 혹은 서술자가 정치적으로 올바른 (politically correct, PC) 묘사를 하고 있는지 더 큰 신경을 썼다.

그렇게 특히 영문학 공부를 시작하면서부터 삐걱거리던 나의 독서생활은 올해 3월쯤 완전히 무너져버렸다. 워낙 독일에서 유학하기 시작한 뒤부터 흔들리기 시작했던 정체성이 급커브를 돌면서 내 뇌가 한동안 영어를 거부하기 시작한 것이다. 참 영문학도로서 여간 낭패가 아니다. 하지만 한창 사춘기 때 한국어가 그토록 싫었던 것처럼 갑자기 영어, 독일어에 거부 반응이 걸리면서 한 두 달 동안은 아무 독서도 하지 않게 되었다. 옛날에 매달 스무 권 넘게 책을 읽던 걸 생각하면 참 놀라운 진전이다. 솔직히 지난 3달 동안 읽은 책 12권 중 7권은 전공 혹은 부전공 과목을 위해 읽은 것이고, 나머지 다섯 권중 두 권은 한국어로 된 소설이었다 (에쿠니 카오리, 한강).

아직도 독서는 힘겹다. 별 생각 없이 술술 읽어 내려가는 독서 방법으로는 더 이상 돌아갈 수 없을 것 같다. 그러기에는 소설 자체에 떨쳐버릴 수 없는 의심을 품기 시작했기에. 그렇지만 앞으로도 천천히, 가끔은 고통스럽게 책을 읽어가게 될 것 같다. 자신이 발견하고 싶은 게 무엇인지 알지도 못하면서 끊임없이 그 무언가를 찾아가며. 그렇지만 기분전환으로서는 아직(?) 너무 버거운 과제이기 때문에 현실 도피로는 만화와 아니메의 힘을 빌려야겠다.

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I have to put “reading” off my priority list, but that’s okay

My life is messy. I feel so totally out of control in every area of my life. I am afraid I won’t be able to turn in my paper, or take part in the seminar in Ukraine, or do my work at AIESEC. I am afraid I will resent everything and that my everyday life will be just gray, gray, gray. I keep thinking, there just isn’t enough TIME! I will never be able to finish everything!

Maybe I won’t. So what?

I am learning to place more value on the process than I used to. Doing 98% is better than doing 0% because I’m afraid I won’t be able to reach 100%, or doing only 50% because I let that fear hold me too long and I started too late because of that.

I identify myself as a reader. I take pride in that, and comfort, too. Reading is just part of my life. Reading outside of school has never been a burden to me. I am constantly learning new things through books and developing compassion.
But lately, I never felt happy reading a book. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I kept getting rid of books, thinking I am reading only books that give me no value. As of today, however, I think the problem is not the books themselves but my relationship to them. I see an unread book and think: I should read that. I see a book I’ve already read before, remember the good time I had, and think: I want to re-read that!

Sometimes, though, life demands your full attention.
I see my 53 years old mother working 10+ hours every day, enduring brutal commutes in an overpopulated city, with only 5 days of vacation per year (but de facto zero, actually, because the employers pressure the employees into not taking any day off). For my mother, who first entered the workforce at the age of 40, left it again only four years later and to re-enter it after a 9-year-break, it means she has to give everything she has to her work. Her work fulfills her in a way that nothing else can right now. She needs to do this to take care of herself. So she pours herself into it and has little time or energy left to devote herself to anything else.
I see my cousin who is in military service right now. Instead of sitting in lecture halls, instead of pulling all-nighters to write an essay, instead of hanging out with his friends and having fun, he is experiencing something totally out of his realm; something that he hadn’t known before.
When life demands your full attention, you have to give it if you don’t want to go under. You can’t cling to your old habits and routines and hobbies. New cards have been dealt. Adapt or miss the chance.

I don’t want to go under. I don’t want to miss the opportunities. So I have to give my full attention to school, and to AIESEC secondarily. I won’t be able to read long, difficult books on feminism, history, literature. I won’t be able to write long, elaborate reviews. I won’t be able to watch movies every week.

But that’s okay, because I have some really important chances I don’t want to miss. It has taken me a long time to finally see the right priority; but I see it now, and I’m fine with it. I’ll probably be able to read The Imitation Game or complicated classics in the summer break for a little bit between the exams, the seminar, the paper and hopefully an internship.

This and That – thoughts on blogging and reading

So I was going through 5 or so book blogs I have never been to before. It was fun, as it often is when you visit another booklover and reader’s website and see a post about a book you have read because I found this is the easiest way for me to bond with another person than having an awkward small talk.

Anyway.
The book blogs I had visited were all blogs on classic literature, which is not very surprising since I started out from http://www.booksandreviews.wordpress.com
The owner of Books and Reviews writes many insightful and cozy reviews on classics, but she also reads non-classics.
Which reminds me.
I think it’s cool when a blog has a certain “theme” – be it on technological gadgets, parenting, traveling, journaling or reading classic books.
I sometimes envy those people who can do that – I tried several times to separate “book blog” from “private blog”, only to have combine them somehow by deleting one and using the other as a big, mish-mash, melting-pot kind of blog.
Which is also cool.
I mean, I’m not here to dictate which is better, I just personally think being able to stick to one central theme is awesome because that way you can dig deeper, become more professional, and people who do not want to read any crap not related to the topic will be happy. I mean, you could have a sort of reference blog, as in Hey! I know site zzz concentrates on sleeping disorder, it’s like a Wikipedia! So since I heard today about some thing or other called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, I’ll go there to look it up!

Beyond awesome.
Wait, I keep digressing. This is my blog, for goodness’ sake, so I should be able to concentrate what I want to say for five minutes.
What I want to say is this: My main interest lies in reading and other book-related activities. I take pleasure from reading various genres (by which I mean more than a couple, but don’t expect me to love cookbooks and fantasy and biographies and books about dolphins), which, I like to think, makes me more open-minded to different opinions. But maybe because of this, my interest in one genre shifts from time to time. I’d be like super into one genre for a couple of weeks and then lose interest for the next five.

This is the reason why I cannot participate in The Classics Club challenge, which sounds so crazily superb fun and engaging and educational and just You are geniuses! for people who have founded it. Their aim is to find and challenge classic-readers (non-classic ones too, I’m sure) to broaden their horizon and deepen their love / interest in classic literature. And to spread the word.
The challenge rules are also unique and much more free and personal than most others. Basically you have to choose at least 50 classic works you pledge to read in the next five years. Your time span can be shorter if you wish to, but not longer.
So it’s like ten classics a year, right? Should be doable, it’s not even a book a month if you read nothing else.
But I chickened out. I just couldn’t guarantee that my interest in classic would last long enough for me to finish ten books in a year. Not at one sitting, of course, but this sprinkled-throughout-months is a bad habit of mine. If I lose interest in the current book, I just drop it, hoping in few months it will be more fun.
And, of course, I still have 200+ books (without the classics on the list it would be like 170+) that I am anxious to get over with.
Hear that? It’s that bad. My crazy book-buying habit has finally caught up with me and has released a load of stress on me, nagging me to read those books already. AHAHAHAHAHA because it’s so easy to read that many books in three months! Also, and this is weird, I’m having harder time picking out the next book in this deep, wide sea of new titles that are waiting for my finger to twitch in their direction. Somehow, if you have read everything on your shelves at least twice, you devour any new book.

So this long, inconsistent rambling comes to an end, and I have come to the conclusion that I will first work on reading my 200-odds titles first in the next five years. And then, if you are still there, The Classics Club, I will join you. Definitely.