Sleep evades me still. Several readers have e-mailed me with pharmaceutical suggestions: for their ideas, and still more for their curae, I am grateful. For who can bear to feel himself forgotten? I must try valerian and melatonin, though my hand hesitates, for fear that my insomniac self produces my best work. It is now 3 in the morning. I'm too tired to read, even though I have been captivated by the first pages of Jean Bodin's Colloquium Heptaplomeres, full of sapid erudition and Plutarchey goodness. So to stave off boredom I climb out of bed and write. One might say that insomnia is my enemy, but your friend.
I am reaching my saturation-point with blogs. Aren't you? There are so many, and I can hardly keep up with my own life, let alone these endless and diverting scriptures. God knows how anyone has the time to read the Varieties. Despite this I feel compelled to direct you to Modal Minority, the website of one Teju Cole. This man already has a devoted following, and no wonder—his writing is terrific. One piece in particular, 'Slow Reader', caught my eye. If you read it, perhaps you will spot something of me in his attitudes. For surely, only a member of my karass could write:
One day I went to the bookshop and selected a pile of books—Svevo, Kafka, James, Calasso, about a dozen in all—and from each I read page fifty.Mr. Cole, you see, is not daunted by literature. Rather it is a means to an end—
Every book I read these days is part of my study of writing: I want to know how things are put together on the level of the sentence, the paragraph, the page. . . My own mania is for words, and it borders on synesthesia. I’ve been known to stay up late into the night marveling at the placement of a comma or at a poignant verb-adverb pairing.Quite so! Perhaps you will see in this a contrary logic, but it is only a short step from Cole's sentiment to my hatred of reading. In Cole I find a spirit kindred in his desire to conquer literature. Books haunt me, and haunt him: 'I can't even read Emily Dickinson at all; I simply console myself with the memory of her words'. It is because he fears that he will not let himself be daunted. Likewise, I am not ashamed of my horror; it is perhaps a sign that I am listening, that my ears are not yet stopped up with the conceitedness of modern lovers of literature. (I do not mean you, fair reader!) In reading I seek to escape this horror, to transcend literature for the realm of language. For me, and I wonder, for Teju: the product of reading, ultimately, must be a sort of revelling in word-stuff, a prima materia with which I can sit and sculpt. For I love to sculpt. It is only by writing—sculpting—that I am able to feel myself. This is why I lie in bed in the dark and write and sculpt in my head, incessantly. It is why I pray my insomnia will never desert me.