Why can’t I read a book any more?


Since I was 14 or so I have read a lot.
Slowly, but a lot.

It started with pulp detective stories. Gideon…

And westerns. Sudden…

I read Chairman Mao’s little red book. It was fashionable at school.

I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

I read Paris Match.

But my own writing was rotten, uninventive, uninspired by any English teacher I ever met.

I learned a few bits of poems by rote and learned to cheat when rewriting them in tests.

I did comprehension exercises.

I actually read and wrote about Northanger Abbey for O level, with a short piece on the different uses of ‘nice’. A word I love today.

When I left school I was bored by my accountant training.
I lived with late adolescent angst,
Started to read poetry,
And write.

I read Shakespeare, Keats, Byron.
(Do you remember the BBC did a dramatised Don Juan in 1973?
I lay in bed and read along.)

Steppenwolf, Giles Goat Boy, War and Peace.

After a three month tour around France,
Writing prosaic drivel and a long long journal,
Finding myself
(In reality losing myself in a breakdown)
I enrolled to do A level English at a local college.
Then University.

So I read and read and read.

But now I can’t get to the end of a book.

In recent years I have, like many, moved from complicated novels to simpler, formulaic stories.

Stig Larsen, Michael Dibdin (Zen was definitely a favourite)

Then Jo Nesbo…no, too repetitive, too horrid, too unnecessary.

I re-read The Great Gatsby the other day, after hearing a BBC adaptation.

(I loved Fitzgerald in my angst ridden years.)

Nowadays I often get started, but after less than a hundred pages I lose interest.

I want to read literary stories, cleverly written,
Subtle, poetic use of language.
But I can’t usually find them.
Or finish them.

I like short story techniques, sparse, spare writing.
I remember teaching using a collection of very short stories to inspire my classes to say no more than was absolutely necessary, and never to state facts about characters.
Suggest. Imply. Don’t tell.
The 50 word story.
Try it.

I don’t completely forget what I have read, just lose interest in what might happen, or why.
It takes longer to recall a character, an event, what was said, so the development of the character is less interesting.

I still want to read.
I buy books on kindle or iBooks.
I keep them as a go-to library.

I just don’t read them.

Is it because I prefer doing things now? Not sitting for long periods.
I don’t like reflecting?
(Though I seem to reflect all the time.)
I can’t separate my memories from my reading?

As I read I think about other things,
Wander through my landscape,
Wonder what will happen.


Each day I just want to ingest everything around me
Because it might be the last time I will see the world around me on May 25th.
I might not again see the flowers emerge, or hear the spring birds warbling out their songs.
Or perhaps I will not understand them the same.
Or just forget them.

It sounds trite, I know.

And I don’t wake up each morning thinking I am going to die today.

Just wondering how long my ability to enjoy all this will last.

This year I am enjoying being outside more than ever before.
It does feel as if it might be my last look at emerging summer.
A last listen to those beautiful sounds.

I am finding it more difficult to find the pathways into my mind.
Concentrate and I’m fine.
Stay on one subject and I am good.

Meet new people and I collapse.
Ask me a question off piste and I just stick in a void.

Where have you put that…?
Thingamebob, whatever, that thing, you know, you use it to undo things, it’s like…

The words just don’t make it to the surface any more.

Keep it simple. Keep it to the weather, the beer, gardening, (ah, no, flower names?)
That wedding we went to…
Just conversation without much digging needed.

Yes, the reason I can’t finish books any more may be that I am frightened of losing touch with my reality, and what makes my life worth living.

I don’t want to think about things that are unreal.

I need to take in what is around me while I can.

Life is passing by and I need to go on capturing and enjoying it before I can’t.

So I look and listen and catalogue, and imagine and enjoy and smile.

I miss reading.

Perhaps in the cold, dark winter I will again sit with a book.

For the moment I live for the moment.

6 thoughts on “Why can’t I read a book any more?

  1. Hello George
    That was such an interesting blog post. Your writing always makes me think, and I appreciate it. If you want to try poetry, I hope I might be able to help you find the right poet for the job. Short bursts of intense reflection and insight and pleasure can be had in poetry. I think I’d recommend U.A. Fanthorpe because she is sharp, cool, simple but profound, and wryly funny. Try her ‘Selected Poems’ published by Penguin. Also, Philip Larkin, the ‘High Windows’ collection, publ. Faber. Beautiful. Read ‘Sad Steps’. Also, think about going to T.S. Eliot The Waste Land because it’s wonderful to read it for the impression of the images make on you and not necessarily the literal meaning. Go to Tennyson and read aloud (loudly, aloud) for the rhythm and pleasure of the sound. Try The Lady of Shalott. Maybe even just Part III because it’s quite a long poem. http://bit.ly/1FP9DaI The appreciation in reading aloud is all in the moment of the experience.
    Good luck with your reading and thank you for writing your blog,
    Best wishes, Abigail


    • Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions. And yes I do love poetry. Haven’t read a lot for many years but I have been thinking about returning. So thank you.

      I love Seamus Heaney and Edward Thomas, and will look further afield.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. George, thank you for this beautiful post. Indeed, let’s live in the here and now. Let’s inhabits our todays as much as we can. After all, life is an everyday gift.


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