The most amazing thing I've read this week is Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. This woman has four children, a husband, a house and house pets. When her sister died, she was grieving by overachieving, and it wasn't bringing her any solace. So she turned to books. She vowed to read a book a day and review it on her blog: http://www.readallday.org/about_nina.html. I was astounded. Her account gives, in bits and pieces, her process. First she created a work space, complete with a purple arm chair, then cleared shelves and dove in. Her library searches were guided by the length of the book. She figured she could read 300 pages in four hours, still write the review and be done by the time her boys came in from school. Of course, it did not always work that way, but despite distractions, she reached her goal, although at times it might have been midnight when she finished the day's work.
This project intrigues me. I am not about to replicate it. Too many of the things that please me would make this pressure unwelcome. But what Sankovitch did was to relieve some of my guilt when I will not put down a book until the last page. This guilt may come from the only time I recall my mother hitting me. I was in 7th grade, deeply immersed in a book when she announced that dinner was ready. I read on until she came into my room, took the book from my hands and smacked me on the bottom with it. Hardly child abuse, but that event summed up her ambivalence about my reading. As a school teacher, she valued reading, was proud that I had learned early and read almost constantly, but she also wanted me to eat while dinner was hot. I wanted to read while the story was hot, or while I was supposed to be vacuuming or helping start dinner. To this day I get most of my household chores done before I open a book. It's a message from my childhood: reading is good, but housework comes first. Oh, what a tangled web my generation of women has faced.