Oh, for sure. I’ve read countless of texts that I didn’t like or bored me to death; and I’ve actually been feeling book-tired for a while now. I’m afraid I don’t have any trick to fend that off—switching up the format of your entertainment reading (prose, poetry, short works, experimental, audio, interactive…), juggling different works to jump-start your attention span, flip-flopping between different activities (read—annotate—write—translate) are all useful to deal with it, but that’s just what it is: not the panacea to correct your state of mind, just exercises in determination.
Bottom line, I don’t think there’s a “nice” solution. Motivation and inspiration come in bursts, and you can’t rely only on that if you want to be thorough. Academia certainly isn’t just pleasure; with pleasure-reading, you can pace yourself, try something new, get out of the slump in your own time, be tolerant to yourself. With research, at the end of the day, it’s a matter of doing the work you’re supposed to be doing, happily or otherwise.
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?
is the story of Helen,
War is the context
and God is a boy.
And the harsh sunshine was as if it had never been.
In the halls of Hades they said I was queen.
Nice! I hope you’ll like it as much as I do. I think it was one of my first grown-up taste of displayed, clever, aware intertextuality—of a text brimming with playful rewriting and conscious references, which, even not knowing and catching them all, you can feel pulsing underneath the words. You’re not far enough yet, but there is a biblical kitchen scene… There is a biblical kitchen scene, and it’s something.
I do agree that the book can be a bit daunting at first—I have recommended it to many, and people tend to feel shy because there is quite a lot of historical and religious contextualisation, and because the tone is clever. And then, William is so smug, it’s just not easy to be at ease. But I think it’s just a matter of changing your perception. There is a lot of information, but it’s presented with warmth, don’t you think? Eco treats you as an equal, because you are. He’s generous and he gives you a lot to think about, but you’re absolutely free to embrace this supplemental information, to memorise it, to cherry-pick through it, to dig deeper with other sources, to skim ruthlessly.
The story itself is not difficult. The context is an enrichment, because Eco is clearly having fun and wants to set up a vivid scene and take you by the hand and guide you through time. But you won’t not understand if you miss a few cues or if you don’t remember the intricate differences between Franciscans and Benedictines and where Pope John XXII’s interests lie. Whatever information you need in order to understand the subtle digs and jokes and hints, you will be provided again at the right time. And, don’t forget, you are supposed to be a wide-eyed reader, passive and naive and not used to the ways of this alien world. You are Adso, after all.
So just take it easy! Treat The Name of The Rose as much as a leisure book as the ones you read usually. It is. What’s important is that you have fun. Trust Eco with it, he’s a lovely companion and an attentive teacher.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, she’s a very complex and interesting writer and my feelings are just born from the very subjective experience of being “tied” to her through my working on her writings extensively. She’s the focal point of my thesis, so reading her works tends to feel more daunting and loaded (and weirdly personal) with every passing year, through no fault of her own.
More objectively, I do prefer her older works, though. Eros the Bittersweet, Autobiography of Red, Decreation, Glass Irony and God, Plainwater, her translations of the Oresteia and Sappho. She’s growing less textually-focused and more performative in what comes next, and maybe, maybe, transforming the patterns that have made her subversive into… gimmicks. Sometimes… there’s hollowness there. There’s less looking inward, less of the texts that inspired her and to which she was so attuned before, to the point of transgressive but exciting homage. I’m not sure—I might just be more partial to the early works because I found some of myself there, a closeness in thinking that has evolved down the line and strayed in a way I’m not as enthusiastic about.
I’m not finished with Norma Jeane, but I will say that I found Red Doc> lacking, The Beauty of the Husband uneven, and Float complacent. Though I feel like a f*cking traitor just writing that (deep-dive research will do that to you I guess? I could fill a book about what Carson taught me, good and bad. Wait, actually, if everything goes well, I will.)
sideways, to see
a pale look, tired
and sly. Hey,
who is glancing there?
Aw, was that it, suspense anon? Well, of course, no worries. My favourite happy, light reading include: L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey and Emma, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sylvia Towsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes, and E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View. Speaking of Austen (when am I not, though?), if you can get your hands on it, I really recommend the new Autumn de Wilde’s film adaptation Emma. I cackled a lot.
that like a flower
are there to tempt
direct the moth’s
simply he is
the temple of himself,
thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth
Oh, thank you for suffering years of silliness! I don’t know if that’s exactly what you’re looking for—mostly these are old and I’m sure there’s much more in contemporary literature—but I’d recommend Jeannette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and The Robber Bride.
the quick of the
our hands were
stealing upon quickened flesh until
no part of us but was
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each—