I’ve always had eclectic reading patterns, and that has become more pronounced with age. I came off a bender of Kristen Cashore, pondered my way through grim and ambiguous Joe Abercrombie, and then got stuck on a series by an author who will remain nameless until I hit the interesting bits. I will say that the story is set on Mars. Usually reading catnip for me.
My favorite binge reading falls into the dystopian category and includes Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and especially Sheri S. Tepper’s “The Gate to Women’s Country.” I was introduced to both during my college years and still reread them every few years. I have read most of the books written by them, actually.
More recently, as I’m stuck in Martian tedium (I love a good space battle), I’ve been doing much of my reading on the internet. I have a few favorites that I visit on a daily basis. The guilty pleasure of one celebrity gossip blog. I know. Hanging my head in shame. I also spend quality time on the metalsmithing groups I belong to on Facebook, where I mostly lurk. I learn a great deal, and am not currently productive, so…I’m quiet. I belong to another group that is a bit more private and obscure, but always has fascinating topics in play. Lots of science, lots of how the mind works, lots of serious questions about society and humanity but handled in a very congenial fashion. It’s often academic, and it’s often personal, and the mix is very interesting. Of any group, I communicate most freely with my artist peeps. Sometimes it’s actually about art, and sometimes it’s more about life. All good. In reality, my most interesting and intense conversations are one on one. I’m not so much the group kind of person.
There’s BBC and sometimes CNN. Refinery 29 for my fashion moments. Most of which are geared to a woman a decade or two younger than me, but I still enjoy seeing the current trends. The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post — all appear now and then. I read an article — on which one I can’t remember — about mommy issues recently. I don’t have children, but I find the mommy struggles interesting as they reinforce my belief that I’m not mommy material. I hold parents in awe.
But my gateway site. The one that leads me to the most interesting and compelling blogs and articles and thought provoking notions, is easily “The Hairpin.” I’m addicted. And for the past two or three days I’ve been having whiplash reading that has led me to the blog “Tits and Sass” about sex workers — and not the downtrodden sterotypical sex worker, but the empowered professional sex worker — on one side and “Feminist Morman Housewives” on the other. And not the downtrodden sterotypical conservative housewives, but the proud and empowered ones. The juxtaposition is fascinating. I can’t help but wonder what would happen should these two groups of women actually meet and talk.
It’s all enough to make a person really rethink “the obvious.” None of us, really, is ever so easy to pigeonhole. We are creatures of nuance. Lately I’m thinking about how I fit into these groups that I belong to. I’m an artist of sorts, if one that is in a dormant state. But I’m thinking, too, about if I’m a feminist. And I’m not sure at this point in history what the definition of a feminist even is.
I’ve mentioned in my “About” non-blurb that I read for a few other writers. When I was 23 I thought I would BE a writer. That I had a novel in me that needed to come out, but I didn’t yet know what it was. I thought that perhaps it would be a fictionalized account of some pivotal events that happened during my college years, but I did my time in counseling for that and have moved on in life. I stopped thinking that I would be a writer. Instead I thought I have nothing to say. That I don’t have a clear point of view, a clear story to tell. And to write well — you need those things! And yet, I was considering what it is that I do in my life now — I am an artist. I wanted to be one when I was a teen. I have always been fascinated by science and behavior. I read about Pavlov when I was 12 and started reading more about animal behavior. And then I discovered Jane Goodall and wanted to be her when I grew up. That fascination with animal behavior morphed into a fascination with human behavior and in high school I was reading about Freud (Boo!) and Yung (Meh…), and Rogers (Yay!). I thought maybe I’d be a journalist — one who covered conflict and human misery in foreign lands. I’m so glad that part didn’t pan out, as I would probably have had a nervous breakdown. And in the end I decided, after I left college (psychology and sociology — my strengths), that all I really wanted to be was normal. And I was. Just quietly normal working with homeless people for ten years.
I started reading for others. And I started messing with metal. And I started talking to other artists and intellectuals about the issues of the day. About how their lives worked and their struggles and triumphs manifested.
I think my chaotic reading is building to something. Some piece of writing that I may someday be brave enough to tackle. Where maybe sex workers and Mormon housewives have something to talk about? Where the intellectuals and the artists realize they are two sides of the same coin? Where we are all more nuanced and real with one another. Where life is ambiguous and poignant and complicated, but ultimately rather beautiful in its imperfection.
I don’t know what the story is yet. In reading for others, I see the enormous energy that is put into building a believable world, and believable people and then torturing them in order for a story to have power. It scares me. I’m not sure I have the fortitude.
At the end of the day, I await my favorite email from my favorite feel good blogs about a lifestyle I will never fathom. “The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor,” with the sister site “From Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault.”
Because of course. Tiaras. The high point of my day. What can make a jewelry magpie like me happier, except an Etruscan artifact of high karat gold woven chain and granulation? In another life I would be a treasure hunter.