Reading and Trust in 2023
Over the summer, I’ve had the good fortune of catching up on my Substack subscription to Story Club with George Saunders. My goal for 2022 was to increase my literary critical thinking. I undertook book reviews, wrote copious notes and attempted to look deeper into stories than my usual ‘face value/entertain me’ outlook.
I was happy with the outcome. Now I want to delve further into analytical thinking and to do that I have to climb over the confidence hurdle. I often feel that I’m out of depth in intellectual conversation or critical observation. It continues to surprise me that those who I hold in high esteem for their talent and skill note that they have felt the same. Imposter Syndrome is well known and not restricted to lesser known writers.
I’ve just finished reading Ruth Wilson’s, The Jane Austen Remedy. Throughout, I struggled to comprehend Wilson’s analysis of Jane Austen’s novels. Her ability to relate the themes to her life and make connections in thought and reflection mystified me. I decided I really needed to improve my reading skills. My 2022 reviewing efforts, while helpful, were not enough. I want more.
In the last pages of the memoir, I came to understand that what I needed was to fully trust myself, my brain, my mind and intelligence.
Even Ruth Wilson occasionally found herself in deeper intellectual water than I was accustomed to.
George Saunders is an American writer and Professor of creative writing. In his Story Club, he shares several short stories (his and others), and on a weekly basis pulls them apart to analyse the writing process. Interspersed with the short story writing discourse are Q&As, with interesting comment threads. The effect is like that of a “club”. People enjoying conversations about writing.
Keeping at a task with active participation is the best way to improve. I must acknowledge and take part in the entire reading process if I want to be an analytical reader; to think about the words on the page in front of me rather than skim through for entertainment value only. I have to put in more to get more out of it.
So the notebooks, pens and sticky notes will stay scattered around my house. I’ll allow time to read deeply and choose literature that layers story with themes and cultural nuance.
And I’ll trust my understanding of the words I’m reading.