Over the years I have retained my childhood love and need of reading. By reading regularly each day, I find time to wonder, laugh, cry, escape, and get lost in a gifted writer's consciousness. It is an emotional experience that feeds my curiosity about how people, places, things, and ideas relate. While reading does not directly affect my pottery making, it helps keep me open to a state of possibility and wonder. This is the essential state that I enjoy being in and operating from. While the pleasure of words themselves is enough, the physicality of that book is an added bonus - hands on the binding and paper, the delicacy of text and illustration. I have found myself remarking at times, "I could read for a living." In a sense I do, for reading helps me remain open to fully living: being present and available to new experiences, emotions, and information .The practice of reading gives me hope and helps me maintain a life of curiosity.
My reading day begins with Minnesota Public Radio's "The Writer's Almanac." At the ungodly hour of 6:15 AM, Garrison Keillor reads a poem or two for the day. He then proceeds to list and offer literary and historical notes on writers who were born on that day. Mr. Keillor's voice often has a soporific effect on me, and I will later read his program on the MPR website, www.MinnesotaPublicRadio.org.
Breakfast creates a bit of time for The New Yorker magazine, which I read from cover to cover. It is my main written source of current affairs and culture, and I can't wait to open it up! Writers whose work I eagerly look for in this magazine are Seymour Hersh, David Sedaris, John McPhee, Roger Angell, and Peter Schjeldahl. It is here that I also discover new short stories and poetry, as well as photographs, drawings, reviews, and criticism of all kinds. As a bonus, my current favorite cartoonist Roz Chast is included each week. As soon as The New Yorker arrives, my daughter and I huddle on our kitchen bench and gleefully race through the cartoons and drawings.
When not traveling, my workday revolves around the four or five public radio stations we are blessed with receiving. They are a rich source of music, news, and information to mull over and work with. My studio whiteboard has a few sketches on it, but it is littered with titles of books and music to pursue. Being a voracious reader, J only allow myself the dictionary in the studio.
Snack and lunch times find me dabbling in a nonfiction book or two at present The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and A Proof of Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott. I try to read an excerpt each day from Laura Erickson's For the Birds, An Uncommon Guide. It is written in diary format, each, day including some information about seasonal bird activity and accompanied by illustrations, and since I am somewhat forgetful, it is always fresh year after year. Sometimes at lunch I listen to "Chapter-a-Day," a reading-aloud program on Wisconsin Public Radio, Over the years I have diligently listened to many books in this way, including The Perfect Storm (Sebastian Junger) and The Lobster Chronicles (Linda Greenlaw). Luckily, I am blessed with a high metabolism for both food and text. I have consumed the entire Harry Potter series and Moby Dick while commuting, with an ear cocked, to and from Carleton College.
Evenings I find time for a bit of more-serious literary reading. At present I am nibbling my way through Garth Clark's wonderful new book, Ceramic Millennium: Critical Writings on Ceramic History, Theory, and Art This is when being somewhat of an insomniac actually helps my situation. After my family's lights are out, I can't wait to snap on my headlamp and begin my late-night r||ding: mysteries and other fiction. This is my time to truly escape into engaging characters working their way through landscape and circumstance.Tonight I will be continuing V.S. Naipul's A House for Mr. Biswas.
Although reading is essentially a private activity, I feel part of a communal readership. By paying attention to other readers, I have been introduced to literature that otherwise would have escaped my detection. Friends, family, workshop and conference participants, educators, students, shuttle van drivers, strangers at airline terminals - all have contributed to my longing for new things to read. Conversations about books are similar in their feel to conversations about pots. As a teacher, I like to play a little game by asking students, "If you could have access to only one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?" Substitute building, pot, piece of music, or tool, and it's a great ceramics question, getting to the heart of who we are as intellectuals and makers. Many of you reading this article have helped me discover new reading material. I am grateful to you, and to that little Carnegie Library.