- Uncategorized

Like a Virgin

Lost Innocence
Ashley Ryder probably experiences the same irony about porn.

One of the great ironies of being a writer is that you necessarily lose the ability to experience writing in the way that first made you want to write. Sometimes when I’m in the midst of taking some passage apart in order to figure out how a particular author has achieved a certain effect, I’m overcome with a kind of deep sadness resulting from the fact that I can’t simply let such mysteries be, to bask in the baffled state of wonder I have, say, about my iPhone.

Do you read like a writer? If so, is it always a good thing?

12 thoughts on “Like a Virgin

  1. i feel this way about movies, too, after growing up with a father and stepfather who were both in the film industry. but i enjoy reading as a writer, or watching movies without the veil so to speak. it drives my wife nuts. but i enjoy appreciating books and movies for other things. great camera angles, or a really rhythmic sentence. i even enjoy reading something that i get annoyed by things in because part of me thinks “i can do better than this and this sucker’s published!”

    wow, i’m an arse.

    1. You’re not an arse at all–I have those responses, too. I enjoy taking things apart. But I can’t deny a measure of nostalgia for the prelapsarian reading experience.

      1. glad to know i’m not the only one.

        there are times where i feel nostalgia about pure entertainment reading like burning through the Redwall series when i was 12, or my short lived Grisham kick shortly after, but truth is i think i’m happier reading what i read now, in the way i read now.

  2. It’s hard not to read like a writer if you’re a writer. It’s like if you’re a carpenter and you check out a house you didn’t build. You see all the weak spots and all the brilliant spots. It’s not a bad thing but I know what you mean, Shya. It can be a buzz kill on simple enjoyment. But it’s still possible to lose yourself in a piece of writing. The trick is to turn off your editorial eye. Practice zazen.

  3. I remember, when it came out (and since, actually), avoiding Prose’s book, Reading Like a Writer. I already read, to a degree, as is only natural, as a writer, and I don’t really know that I want to more so. I think it is a balance — there are certainly books/stories/etc. that I enjoy more (only?) because of the lens through which I read it, but I also do still strive to be able to fall away into a book and just revel in the pleasure of its reading.

  4. I can shut it off. I read The Sheltering Sky a few months ago and for most of it, maybe 80 percent of it, I read like a reader, not a writer. But right now I’m reading Bonnie Jo Campbell’s stories and taking all sort of notes.

    I will say that when I worked as a foreign scout and had to read two books a week and lots of them bad, I started to hate READING.So I quit and started bartending and read what I wanted to again. Ahhhh.

    1. I had a similar experience with graduate school. I never hated reading, but it became a chore, especially leading up to my comprehensive exams. After I passed those there was this huge relief. And then, after I defended my dissertation, there was another breath. I still feel grateful as I see the books piling up on my end table that I’m dictating my own reading lists completely. (This may the greatest impetus to get defending out of the way, for those of you who are on the fence.)

  5. IDK. I think I can still appreciate movies and books as a reader, and yet I can also delve deeper. So I think I get more pleasure out of movies and books now, now that I can analyze them.

    I was just rereading SOME TREES yesterday, following all the discussion of Ashbery, and I came to “Meditations of a Parrot,” which I’ve read many times before, although not recently. And it was as though I’ve never seen it before. I was simply blown away by it. What an incredible poem!


    And I didn’t even begin to analyze it. Although I can do that, if I want to.

    So I feel like I’ve gained. But it’s hard to remember what it was once like. I know the first time I saw Fellini’s 8.5, I was very confused by it. Now I’m no longer confused. So I changed, but I can’t really remember how.

      1. Luckily, there are always new works to confuse me. I was just remembering how when I read Mati Unt’s THINGS IN THE NIGHT, back in 2006, it took me all year to make it through. And now I think it’s a simply incredible book. But I had to work to get through it. So there must have been something in there that was challenging me, or confusing me.

        And last night I was looking again at David Markson’s WITTGENSTEIN’S MISTRESS, a book I’ve read maybe twenty times, and have written about, and have even written an index for, and yet it hasn’t lost any of its power. In fact, I was seeing new things in it.

        We’re always changing, so the work is always changing. Just like how when you learn a foreign language, you’re always forgetting it and relearning it.

      2. There is that beautiful confusion, but the beautiful understanding of rereading Shakespeare and having the lines warm you as they pour out, either on the page or through actors’ mouths. I guess a little warmer from the mouths.

Leave a Reply