At the start of this month, I read Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss, which I enjoyed without falling in love with. I don't blame the material. Sometimes I read like a dog eats. Could be kibble, could be filet mignon. I'm just going too fast to be more than simply satisfied by the experience of reading.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Shy kids and nerds, represent. How many introverts in the house tonight? This book will tell you a lot of things you already know about yourself. This might be empowering for you, if, like me, you know your needs but you sometimes feel stigmatized by the dominant cultural preference for extroversion.
Reading this book had a direct effect on the weekend I just spent on a film set, where I knew that the uncontrolled noise and exposure to other people's stress was going exhaust me. I unapologetically squirreled myself into hiding places and avoided small talk with the cast and crew. It was hard to resist the habit of pretending to be more extroverted than I actually am in order to fit in, but I was glad I had taken care of my energy levels when it was late in the day and we were shooting an emotional scene that needed all my emotional access, focus and commitment. Acknowledging and accommodating my introversion allowed me to serve the needs of the group in an effective way.
So, the book I read on set to help me hide from everyone was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It was a good quick read and a compelling world. The story centers on a young woman in a traveling Shakespeare troupe after the end of the world as we know it. Great premise, huh?
Most recently, I finished The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. Her short stories are like watercolors. The shapes start to make pictures, but before the pictures make plots the images dissolve back into impressions. She is a profound observer, and that combined with her sense of humor makes you feel like she's trusting you as an old friend, too old to be judging each other or impressing each other. Like a chosen sister. Some of the stories were mystifying and I felt like she was signaling to me in a dense fog. I wondered if she was too subtle for me at times and I just wasn't getting it, or if there wasn't anything to get -- if the mystery was the point.
4, 5, 6, 7. I'll be coming back for you, Nathaniel Hawthorne.