A friend calls it being “book drunk” — that woozy sensation you get when you read book after book after book, without a break in between.
Lives flash by, characters remain in your head, time and geography have no meaning, plots spin out beyond the end of the story, your brain is always somewhere your body isn’t, thinking about the book you just read even as you reach for another one.
Bookseller! Set me up!
This spring and summer I have been book drunk most of the time, dragging around a backpack full of paperbound advance copies, heavy finished books, and my little old Kindle, reading in every spare minute.
There is so much to read, so little time, and in addition to the normal reading of my life (books to review, books to read in advance of interviewing authors, books so I can keep up with what’s new, and every now and then, yes, so sue me, the occasional book for fun) I now have an additional load of books to read for the National Book Critics Circle.
I’m one of the NBCC judges for memoir and biography, and why I signed up for biography I cannot now say. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I love a good biography, but most of these are huge — bricks, door-stoppers, tomes, 500 pages, or 600, or more. And they are about people I know little about — Herbert Hoover, and Alicia Patterson, and Diane Arbus, and Van Cliburn, and Harry Crews. (Harry Crews? Who is Harry Crews? Give me a minute; I will read this 400-page biography and find out.)
It’s an odd thing, reading so much so fast, usually without a break in between to ponder the meaning of what I just read.
At times, though, it’s impossible, after reading a book that moved me, to just plunge into something new.
After reading Emma Donoghue’s fall title, “The Wonder” (which is about a young girl starving herself in 19th-century Ireland — or maybe she’s not starving, maybe she’s been touched by God and can live on air), I spent the rest of the day thinking about it, picking up other books and then setting them back down. How could I plunge into a whole new book when Donoghue’s wasting girl was still in my head?
Certainly book critics are not the only people who read this voraciously. English professors, librarians, editors, booksellers, book lovers — you all know what I’m talking about.
Do we do the books a disservice by reading so many of them, so fast? Should books be sipped and not guzzled? How then to get everything read?
I don’t have time to answer those questions. Set me up. Then leave me alone. I’m reading.
E-mail Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune senior editor for books, at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks