I don’t when it began–this inability to stay with a book. A few pages and I lost interest and then, the next time, I picked up the book, I would have to reread everything and would get to the same place a few more pages and lose interest. Instead of continuing to try, I gave up. I had no trouble with most poetry books, but long narrative poems also were beyond my concentration.
So for a long arid time, I, a person who used to read constantly and sometimes all night long to savor the rest of a book, this person didn’t have the joy of losing herself in a story or other material that demanded staying power.
Oh, once or twice a year I’d find a book like “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova and devour it in one or two sittings. It was a novel of an educated woman in her 50s who developed early onset Alzheimers Disease and the progression of her illness. It’s possible my interest was due to my own fears about my memory deserting me. Although I kept being told I was all right until I was diagnosed with Moderate Cognitive Impairment or MCI, a memory problem but not Alzheimers or Dementia but can become either down the road. I’m happy to say I’m still CMI although having more difficulty in remembering directions, getting lost a little and my driving came under jeopardy last summer–Happily I’m still driving but not for long distances and not at night. Fortunately, I have Eric to help me.
Then I came across a book about life in North Korea: “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013. Jun Do (yep, John Doe), a North Korean orphan who stumbles from poverty to a job as body double for a Hero of the Eternal Revolution. The closed world of North Korea revealed here—where businessmen are conscripted to work in the rice fields and the ruthless Kim Jong-il is still the Dear Leader. It describes the huge barracks and the prison mines and the graveyards and the execution yards is just terrifyin and goes beyond anything Orwell ever imagined. The Orphan Master’s Son veers from cold terror to surrealistic humor with ease, and succeeds as both a thriller and a social satire. I couldn’t put it down. Again, my mind shouted, I can read again. But again a couple of years passed without my reading-life returning.
I just finished my book for this year–a Sue Grafton mystery, “Y is for Yesterday” and I went for days following the story until I am sure that I can read another novel and am anxious to find one. In the meantime I have read two May Sarton books: Her poetry book, “Coming Into Eighty,” and her last journal: “Encore: A Journal of the Eightieth Year.” Both these have my interest as I have just entered my 80s and want to read May’s words, which keep me turning the pages.
I’ve also made a goal to write a poem every day for 80 days. I began on my birthday November 15 and haven’t missed a day, in fact some days writing more than one. I know I may not succeed with this lofty goal, but I am enjoying the work and that’s what is important to me. I may put together a chapbook on my own Entering the Eighties and wouldn’t that be fun.