Monday, September 13, 2010
Psychology and Alchemy
Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.
When I woke up this morning I found myself thinking about a previous entry in which I spoke of how I'd started buying Jung's books in order to build a defensive wall around myself when I was in therapy.
I was remembering a conversation I had many years ago with a friend, P., a writer who at the time was going through a crisis in which he had decided that he should never have started writing in the first place.
P. is a self-castigating type who came to this conclusion first and then backed it up by creating a narrative whose moral suited the negative feelings he was then currently entertaining about his writing career. His evidence was that he never liked reading in the first place, and that the only reason he started reading and writing was to impress a girl he had a crush on in college.
They were reading Jack Kerouac in an English class his freshman year he discovered through a brief conversation with this woman that she had a profound and abiding passion for literature in general and the Beats in particular. This knowledge, he said, produced in him a powerful passion to share in her passion and so he began to read all of the books for this class.
His passion for Kerouac developed at such a pace that before long he had read all of his novels and decided that he, too, needed to become a writer. In the hands of a different person, this would serve more as a simultaneously self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating creation myth about the first stirrings of his literary ambitions, but in the hands of my friend it server exactly the opposite purpose.
I started thinking about all the reasons that I have started reading different books over the course of my life and how often those reasons have external motivations.
I have read books books because I wanted to impress someone, like a teacher or a someone whose opinion I respected, with the fact that I had read or understood the work.
I have read books recommended by someone I love.
I have read books recommended by someone I lust after.
I have read books because they were assigned in a course.
I have read books because I heard them mentioned in movies and on TV.
I have read books because I read that writers (or others) I admire had read them.
I have read books recommended by friends.
I have read books because I hadn't read them before and felt I should have.
I have read books because they were written by an author I like.
I have read books that were difficult just to prove to myself I could read them.
I have read books recommended by others I do not respect only in order to confirm my negative opinion about that person.
I have read books that seemed like other books I had read.
I have read books that were well-reviewed in a journal somewhere.
I have read books because they were written by friends.
I have read books because they were written by enemies.
I have read books I have written.
I have read books randomly chosen.
I have read books because I owned them for a long time and felt I should read them or get rid of them.
I have read books I discovered on bibliographies in the back of other books.
I have read books on lists of recommendations for further reading.
I have read books listed on syllabi of friends I admire.
I have read books discovered in the course book section at Talking Leaves...Books because I thought the course sounded interesting and that I might learn something new.
I have read books to fill holes in my historical, geographical, or scientific knowledge.
I have read books I was once supposed to have read but did not and felt I should have.
I have read books because I liked the cover.
I have read books because they are part of the Canon of Western Civilization.
I have read books because someone said they should be part of canon and were not.
I have read books I thought would change my life but did not.
I have read books chosen for an oral exam list.
I have read books I thought would help me write my dissertation.
I have read books to help me start thinking like an academic.
I have read books to help me stop thinking like an academic.
I have read books I thought would teach me the necessary jargon to survive in academia.
I have read books that I thought would help me understand other books better.
I have read books to understand certain ideas.
I have read books to bolster certain ideas of my own.
I have read books in order to steal ideas.
I have read books in order to steal lines or text for my own writing.
I have read books to learn specific skills, for instance writing, web design, basic plumbing and wiring, cooking in a wok, etc.
I have read books to try to understand something about myself and/or the world around me.
I have read books for pleasure.
(I try to do the latter as often as I can.)
There are many more reasons, I am sure.
Feel free to tell me some of your own.