Ok, so when I invented this thing - Reading for Pleasure Wednesday - one of the stipulations was that we couldn't write about things that were work-related. This was a very nice summertime idea, but today I've been thinking a bit about how things that I think are pleasure-reading at the time have a way of seeping into my work (unless of course they are total crap). This is one of the potential pitfalls of specializing in English Literature as an academic: one decides to read something - at an airport bookstore, even - and the next thing one knows, one realizes that it would be the perfect thing to teach. Or one reads something - on the recommendation of a professor when one is an undergraduate, not for a class but just "for fun" - and then the next thing one knows that thing one read for pleasure 13 years ago is now a central focus of her research.
In some ways, I suppose this is a good thing. It means I'm working on stuff that I enjoy - truly enjoy. It starts off as pleasure and then I turn it into work because it seems fun to work on. But at the same time, this makes it difficult to distinguish what "counts" as pleasure-reading. Part of the difficulty is that my field encompasses literature that one might reasonably expect to read for "fun." (That said, I also work on things that are decidedly "work" and not fun and that I'd never have considered fun, as I'm a frivolous person.) But it's weird, especially when I talk to people outside of my discipline because it's not unusual for them to mention things that I have transformed into "work" as pleasure-reading, and I don't quite know what to do with that. Have I made these things un-fun by teaching them or by writing about them? Or are they still fun, only work, too? I don't think I'd have this problem if I worked on, say, George Herbert. He's just not a "popular" writer. But the writers whom I tend to teach and whom I tend to do scholarly work on? Well, lots of people choose to read them, for pleasure. Except it seems that I choose not to read these things for pleasure - as soon as I start feeling pleasure in them I transform them into something I have to figure out. Perhaps this is a bad quality in me.
But so I'm going to try really hard to read something that is definitively pleasure-reading in the coming week or two. Even though I'm trying to get the book manuscript together, and even though I've got a bit of non-pleasure reading that I've got to accomplish in that time as well. I'm sorry for falling down on the job here (look - I've even made talking about books that I read for pleasure a job), but it's really hard to figure out what "counts" as pleasure when, really, my entire job is based on reading books I like.
2 years ago