Friday, July 1

On consuming works

I am currently attempting to drink pop culture, or simply just culture. But it feels a little superficial. All those borrowed books from the library (Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay; NW, by Zadie Smith; Three Moments of An Explosion, by China Miéville...), the movies and TV shows (Dead Poets Society, Never Let Me Go, People Places Things, Please Like Me...), the CDs (Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Flight of the Concords...), they all seem to be made out of paper. It's no use, you can still see the awful hole that they are trying to cover (I finished high school forever two weeks ago, and sat for my major exams a week ago, I am feeling pretty empty).

I am not too worried though. It doesn't bother me that I don't consume culture as much as I'd like to think I do. I think it's important to take in culture, in whatever form, slowly, unhurriedly. Hannah Arendt makes a distinction between labor and work. Labor is what produces something to be consumed. It's almost biological: producing, consuming, producing. Work, in the artistic sense, it holds a different meaning for each person, it is what translates a certain moment in time, and what should be read/watched/felt in a certain mindset. Constructing that mindset takes time.

It's okay that I don't consume. Instead, I lift, I turn over, I hold, I reflect on, I observe, I absorb. China Miéville's work is not a sandwich.

I remember walking into the school library when I was in fourth grade and proudly declaring "Okay Mrs. Page (that was her real name I think, or perhaps it was just a librarian stage name), just letting you know that I will have read every single book in this library before the end of primary!!!!"
I remember standing triumphantly, waiting for her praise. Instead she chuckled and said, "If you want, but you might as well start with one book, and perhaps a book that feels special to you."
I remember feeling slightly hurt that my plan wasn't met with as much enthusiasm as I would have liked. The eight-year old me picked out a book with a girl with very red, curly hair. A book about an orphanage, and a tall stone wall with vines.

I sometimes miss that Zoé who believed in herself enough to do something crazy like read 400 books in a year and a half. But I think Mrs. Page was right, reading with care something that resonates with me is probably more important than reading, just because.

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