Critical Mass

Adventures in E-Reading: Guest Post from Abby Frucht

By Abby Frucht

Over the next month or so we're going to be offering a new series of guest posts (read the first series,”The Next Decade in Book Culture,” here). Our question: How are you handling the rise of the e-book? Are you reading on Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Vook, have you reserved an iPad?  Are you buying e-books? Reading e-galleys? And how's it working out for you? Let us know your quibbles, quirks, happy and not so happy adventures in e-reading. This post is from NBCC member, teacher, short story writer and novelist Abby Frucht.

For thirty years I read almost nothing on weekdays except for student papers and my own works in progress.  I saved other peoples’ novels, stories, essays, and magazine articles for weeknights and weekends.  I got into this habit, I think, once my children were born and there were so many things to do in a day.  Even though the pleasures I find in reading are no less professional than they are personal, reading in the daytime, which I had used to view as practically the only thing to do, began to strike me as a lazy, good-for-nothing activity, a sign that I was procrastinating, suffered writer’s block, or didn’t appreciate my teaching job.  Soon, even reading on weekends made me feel restive, restless, and asocial, so if the choice seemed to be between reading a novel and walking the dog, we’d be outside in a heartbeat.  In the rare daytime hour I did lie down with a book it was because I was sick or reading aloud to the boys, something I miss enormously now that they’re grown.  For an entire year I read very little day or night, which was because I had cataracts.  I didn’t know that I had cataracts, nor that my eyes were tired.  I thought I was tired of reading, period.

At some point I discovered that the New York Times updated its online pages on a minute by minute basis, so I began to make forays away from my work – I’d be writing a story or tending to that lecture I need to deliver – to check on developing news and see if there were any tidbits to send on to friends, the boys, or my students.  When my parents, who have dementia, lost their life savings to Bernard Madoff, I began searching other online pages regularly, too, reading all the Madoff paraphernalia in all its permutations to see if I might uncover some warning, clue or crisis to call my sister about in a panic.  And maybe because the array of victims’ statements, web pages, court filings, legal briefs, claims forms, suits, arrests,  and FBI letters struck me as being like some vast, interactive, ongoing novel, and because  I was already surfing anyway, it seemed permissible to take a break and stop in at fiction venues.  I began sneaking peaks at my favorite online lit mags – Narrative, the Collagist, Brevity – to see what was out there.  Now, when I’ve made my foray to the day’s news, I often detour, on my way back to work, to one of those lit mags.  Today, a Tuesday, I read a Richard Bausch story, yesterday five short personal essays.  Tomorrow I fill a new glasses prescription for ease of shifting my attention from the printed student manuscript beside me on my desk to my first new issue of Electric Literature, an online subscription to which I bought with genuine, heart-thumping (I mean it) trepidation this morning, knowing I’m making a life-changing leap – back to where I left off in my early twenties, reading stories for pleasure on weekdays –  from which I hope there will be no return.