redeveloping a relationship

I’m on a plane on 6 am on a Sunday morning, flying to New York to appear on a show that 4th grade nerdy me would be astonished by, followed by a quick reporting trip. I’m pretty exhausted (I got home late Thursday night from a different reporting trip), and annoyed to be flying on a Sunday (I try, as best as I can, to protect my weekends from work trips, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t). I haven’t been sleeping particularly well (sometimes I get on jags) and I’m stressed about a few reporting deadlines.

Sometimes the weird life of a journalist like me is dynamic and invigorating; sometimes it is deeply fatiguing. I have the luxury of recovering before the week — I’ll sleep nine hours tonight — and when I come back this Thursday, I’ll stay put for five weeks. I don’t have the energy to write anything that illuminating, but wanted to emphasize that even though my writing can sometimes feel like I’ve figured something out (about, well, whatever) I’ve usually just figured out what’s going on, not figured out how to fix it, or inoculate myself against it, in my own life.

One recent thing that’s recently given me a lot of pleasure = rewatching a movie, in this case Sneakers, that I basically memorized as a teen but haven’t seen in at least a decade (the politics are more complicated than I realized, and Robert Redford in Dockers, hello! Plus River Phoenix!) and rereading two books that bewitched me in my 20s (Shirley Hazzard’s The Bay of Noon, which will enthrall any of you who love Ferrante, and The Transit of Venus, just a marvel).

Hazzard took about a decade per book, and I’ve been thinking about what it must feel like to lavish that sort of broad, lasting attention on something — how you’d develop a relationship with the book that’s far different than even the one I’ve cultivated with my own books, which feel unleashed in a flurry of study and writing. Hazzard’s prose is highly crafted, and I periodically found myself frustrated that I was taking as long as I was to finish the book, but then I remembered: that’s part of the point. Also: it doesn’t matter how many books I’m reading. It just matters that I’m reading: something I really and truly love, and that doesn’t need to be quantified for me to love it.

I spent three weeks reading a book of 350 pages, which allowed me to develop a sliver of the sort of relationship that Hazzard felt with that book. It also gave me space to remember what bonded me to it in the first place, why I so loved the emotional tempest on the page. I strongly recommend both books — and I’m going to reread The Great Fire, widely regarded as her masterwork, next — but I also just recommend revisiting a text that’s not a guilty pleasure so much as a slightly demanding one, whatever that might mean for you. There’s real joy to be found in re-developing a relationship, no matter how long it might take.

Things I Read and Loved This Week:

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