You’ve all seen this one on Facebook by now:

GAME RULES: if you choose to play, grab the book closest to you right now. Open to page 56 and choose the 5th sentence. Publish it as your status and write these rules as a comment. Don’t choose the book you think is the coolest; use the closest one to you.

And my answer is . . .

A Collect for Saturdays

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world didst rest
from all thy works and sanctify a day of rest for all thy
creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties,
may be duly prepared for the service of thy sanctuary, and
that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the
eternal rest promised to thy people in heaven; through Jesus
Christ our Lord.     Amen.

— Book of Common Prayer

(Note that this, as are the majority of collects, is one sentence long. There are only three collects on the page, so you have to count the “Amen”s as sentences too. Note also that it’s pronounced KAH-lekt, etymology available upon request.)

OK. Fair enough. But . . . every single time this little game has come around for me, it’s the same damn thing.

I’m not what you’d call devout, really. In fact, for the past few years, the most God-friendly description of my attitude has been, “pretty agnostic at best.” (God and I have Issues.) Yet at every fairly widely separated time, the BCP has been the closest book, and I’ve had it out for random reasons sort of research related: A saint’s day; some overly irate response to some troll. Yesterday morning for some reason or another “O Holy Night” was stuck in my head, and as usual, that second “divine” came out like a rusty chicken. It’s a note well within my range, and I was fishing to see what the interval was. (My BCP has the hymnal in back.)

Anyway, it turns out that a) that’s not in our hymnal, b) it’s a major third, and c) beats the sheep out of me why I can’t do it.  And clearly, d) I’m bad at putting Mr. Book back on Mr. Shelf–or on top of the box under the stereo holding my daughter’s dried corsage from high school graduation and the occasional castrated mouse ball, as the case may be.

I thought it was weird that the BCP was always the winner, and for a while was wondering why, in a world of feast, famine, woe, and maniacal Republicans, the putative Almighty was all about me praying for Saturday. Then I realized that the answer was perhaps a little more disturbing–at least to me:

I really don’t read anymore. At least, not books.

Back when I started grad school (in English), I finally realized that most of what I read was inept crap; i.e., badly written (but published!) science fiction and fantasy.  Wooden characters exchanging featureless and stilted dialogue, highly predictable plots, you name it. I didn’t have time to read it, especially when plowing through the reading list for the M.A. exam.

By the time I got to graduate school #2, and its own reading list for the A.M. exam, I was so burned out that all I read was non-fiction. And then there was the dissertation, and the simultaneous beginning of my own novel.

I realized right away that reading other people’s stuff would be the kiss of death for me–I’d either ventriloquize that in my own work, or get depressed that somebody actually got paid for that dreck, or something. And I didn’t really want to.

So I stopped reading. Well, almost.

For the usual vague sorts of reasons that lead to your being friends with the best friend of your sister’s cousin’s best friend whom she met at the supermarket, I ended up being particularly enamored of Mr. David Weber and his fellows at Baen Books (see link in my blogroll)–and of Ms. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. And I discovered manga; and re-discovered the graphic novel.

But I used to read a hundred books a year. (I kept track.) Now, I think it’s under ten. I’m really appalled by this. Is my brain shriveling? What am I doing with myself instead?

Well, I play more video games, and I do more art–but mostly I write. The huge majority of it is in my head as I wrestle with my characters and try to get to know them and to understand their motives. And I am distressed by this, but Facebook eats a measurable part of my days.

Maybe I’ll try giving it all up for Lent and hunting out a book or two. But only on Saturdays.

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