I have a collection with me at work today called 6 Israeli Novellas. I’m itching to read Benjamin Tammuz’ contribution, but it’s the penultimate work in the collection. The point here? I feel incredibly guilty about skipping around in books. Poetry collections, anthologies, even the damn dictionary. I know this has more to do with my OCD than it does anything else, and sometimes I can overcome it, open an anthology and read only the selections I’m interested in. All too often though I’ve found myself starting from the beginning and reading all the way through. I’m not kidding when I say in college I opened the dictionary because a friend wanted a definition, and couldn’t make myself close the book until well into the F’s.
I’ve never been able to skip around a poetry collection, at least not until I’ve read the whole thing all the way through first.
And, sure, this might seem admirable, reading an anthology cover to cover, but when it happens I am often just as focused on the fact that I want to be skipping through to other stories or poems, as I am on actually reading and digesting the words on the page.
As I sat staring at 6 Israeli Novellas (in which I still can’t make it past the table of contents because of this issue), I thought about the act of feeling guilty as pertained to literature. Maybe because last week I was feeling immense guilt over the two highly disturbing stories I’d been working on.
There are things I feel awful about reading and writing, but I wrote a story dealing with one of them, and though I like the story and think it’s strong, it also disturbs me. And, yes, makes me feel guilty.
So, please, tell me I’m not the only crazy one. Tell me what makes you feel guilty in literature, in reading or your own writing.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.