Reading Matters

Reading relieves chaos of that Time of Year

I think you’ll know what I mean when I say the word chaos. It is, after all, that Time of Year. Nothing finished. Here a mess here. There a mess there. Everywhere a mess, mess. EIEIO!

Here’s the good news: Reading. Yes, allowing your mind to ease into calm place where words march tidily across the page. Reading. Where you row to a small, tropical island and settle in for bliss.

Last week, my husband I drove to Chapel Hill and back. Always, for these trips, I pack a month or two of New Yorker magazines. He drives. I read aloud. This time, I found in the Oct. 17 issue a fascinating article, “The Spaced-Out Brilliance of Thomas De Quincey,” by Dan Chiasson.

The British De Quincey was, mostly, an essayist. But, oh, the 18th century life he led. Addicted to opium, uneasy as how to inhabit time, fearful that there were duplicates of himself floating through time and space, obsessed with his beloved sister’s death when he was six, he rarely drew an easy breath.

As a teenager, he was so enamored of William Wordsworth’s newly-published “Lyrical Ballads,” that he set out on foot from Bath to the Lake District to meet the poet. But feeling unworthy, he wandered around Wales awhile, then turned up broke in London. Ecstacy and despair. That was his life.

OK. So maybe De Quincey is not your cup of grog. But believe me when I tell you that reading about him banished all thoughts of things in my life still undone.

Then, one morning early, I had the pleasure of piling into a downy bed with my two-year-old great-granddaughter Rylie and a stack of books she’d selected from the reading basket. If you had told me I could completely immerse myself in “Ruby Rose: Off to School She Goes” (five times? six?), I would’ve said you lied. But there we were, again and again, reading how Ruby Rose (naughtily but gleefully) danced her way through the first day of school.

Saving the best for last here (though little beats the company of a two-year-old eager for stories) is the forthcoming novel, “The Second Mrs. Hockaday,” by Susan Rivers of Blacksburg, S.C. It’s a masterpiece of suspense and intrigue, set in South Carolina during the Civil War, due early in January. You’ll hear lots more about it soon.

Meanwhile, treat yourself to an hour or so in your best reading chair. The chaos will always be right where you left it. Just ask Mr. De Quincey.