Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reading is hell

In between lurching from day to day as a hospital intern, raising a small child, and smothering my rage so as not to commit chargeable offences on this blog, I've not had time for much reading.  I used to get through a book every fortnight or so on average, even during med school when I probably should have been reading rather more about sick people than I actually did.

As a result I haven't updated the Bookshelf page of this blog for quite some time.  I'm sure that the more literary minded of you have been salivating at the thought of an update, and I'm equally sure that only one or two of you have ever actually noticed the Bookshelf page of this blog. 

Regardless of your level of interest, I'm going to bang on about reading for a bit, for a couple of reasons.  First, I'm sitting here in front of a computer on a cover shift with not much happening so far, so I've got the itchy fingers, and second, I've noticed some interesting trends in my reading.

Normally my reading tastes run to:
  • literary fiction
  • vintage sci-fi
  • historical non-fiction
  • scientific non-fiction
Now what I've noticed is that when my stress levels ramp up, the literary fiction is the first thing to go.  All that cortisol must shut down my frontal lobes.  After a while the scientific non-fiction goes too, followed soon after by the historical non-fiction as my brain withers and dies under the relentless assault of my unhinged amygdala.  All that's left is vintage sci-fi, and even that warps and mutates into a desire to read really awful genre fantasy.  Ugh.

But given long enough, even the bad genre fantasy goes away, and historical fiction rears its head again - but in a very specific way.  I get magnetically drawn to personal memoirs of people who've had really really traumatic experiences, mostly to do with getting shot at.

I think the protective mechanism at work here is an underlying desire to put my life in perspective.  Sure, I may have to attend multiple Code Blues in the middle of the night but at least I don't have to see the tortured corpse of my best friend as in Flags Of Our Fathers.  I may feel burdened by being called to assess yet another asymptomatic hypotension, but that's preferable to having to pretend to be dead while my pockets are looted by the enemy and bullets are fired into the heads of my injured comrades around me, as in We Were Soldiers Once, And Young.  And sometimes I rile at the selfishness and insensitivity of my seniors at work - but at least I'm not being systematically hunted down and exterminated by the State, as in The Pianist.

The good news is that phase of my life seems to be over.  I've recently been able to start reading scientific non-fiction again, with Oliver Sacks' Seeing Voices - a book about Deafness, Sign and language.  Prior to that I read Naval Warfare In The Age Of Sail and learned to distinguish a sloop from a brig.  Soon I might be able to crack open that Anna Funder book I've been sitting on since April.

Here's hoping!


Anonymous said...

Like you, my reading has reduced, down to subsistence levels. During med school ( and in predr life) managed a book a week, read most of the shortlisted booker prizes, a smattering of orange, commonwealth and pulitzers with the odd classic. This yr zip as far as luterature, wolf hall still half finished and am going through scsndinavian crime fiction faster than you can say, it was a dark and stormy night in swedish. During ortopaedics i failed to read more than 3 books, if i got beyond the second sentence before falling asleep with light on and drooling saliva ln the page, was doing well. I feel your pain.y knoledge of fictional serial killers in oslo and copenhagen is better

PTR said...

Here's to 2013 and a few more inky fingers!

Anonymous said...

A related topic - movies. I know life is tough if I can manage nothing more complex than a reese witherspoon romcom. Whilst drinking instant coffee.