The Mind Gym
After the deep tragedy of my post titled ‘A Plea’ two weeks ago, you may be pleased to learn that I have been reading.
Specifically non-fiction and serious fiction. Gone are all my crime and mystery books (not gone forever, but put firmly by for the moment). Gone are all the children’s books I turn to now and then to sort of clear my reading palate (and I confess I’ve been reading these children’s books even though, with a diet of nothing but light crime for months, I haven’t NEEDED to clear my reading palate).
After months of reading for nothing but entertainment, I have decided that my brain needs a work out, so that’s it. For the next couple of months at least, I shall read nothing but non-fiction and serious fiction of the Granta magazine and Umberto Eco type (now reading The Prague Cemetery by Eco and waiting impatiently for my pre-ordered copy of Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie’s memoir of his years in hiding, to arrive).
Should you think I’m being too severe and school teachery with myself, I can assure you, I’m not. I think of this as taking back the control I’ve allowed myself to lose to circumstances. The circumstances being these: that, when I shifted to HT Cafe earlier this year, I had to adjust to the pace of a newspaper that has to be produced from scratch every single day rather than the pace of a magazine that has to be produced from scratch just once a week. And it had been 12 years since I’d last worked on a daily.
Add to this the fact that, as the editor of this paper, I’m on call 24/7 (if some bleeping entertainment type person gets arrested, beats up someone, runs over someone, uses bad language in public, walks out of the customs hall at the international airport without declaring declarable things etc, it’s all my department), and you’ll understand when I say I’ve been coming home so exhausted and brain dead that I simply haven’t been able to read anything that requires my brain to function at the same time that my eyes run over a page.
In fact there have been weeks at a stretch that I’ve read nothing at all. Just collapsed in front of the TV and watched whatever was on whether I liked it or not.
However, it’s been six months since I’ve been with Cafe and the truth is, I’m more or less used to the pace by now. I have not been exhausted and brain dead for the last two months. But I have continued to behave as though I were and I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling that my mind has been trapped in a tiny, pitch black box filled with stale air. I don’t like feeling like I have nothing to say – and if you’ve been reading my blog regularly as some of you say you do (though, honestly, why you read it I really don’t know, I mean, I really don’t say anything fascinating), you’ll have noticed that I haven’t been writing regularly recently. It’s because I have had nothing to say. And most of all, I don’t like feeling that I’ve lost control of myself.
So two weeks ago, still with nothing to say, I wrote that two-line post, A Plea. That was all I had to say. It was that or one more week without a blog post.
And then I went home and put all my crime and light fiction books away and pulled out my stash of non-fiction – essays by Christopher Hitchins, a book by Richard Dawkins, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis, Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia by Thant Myint-U.
And since then, I’ve been reading. Properly. And I feel the way gym freaks say they feel when they work out – stretched, open, happy.