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Confessions of a Procrastinating Reader

June 2, 2013
R.F. Delderfield

R.F. Delderfield

I have hundreds of books displayed on bookshelves in my apartment, and others lined up neatly against baseboards because the shelves are full. My guess is that I’ve got at least 20 books that I’ve bought over the years that I haven’t read.  I’d like to think that I bought them specifically to read later, but I’m just being kind to myself to think like that. The fact is, some other books took up my time and I’ve never gotten around to the other 20.

In college I began reading the British novelist R.F. Delderfield. If memory serves, his “God is an Englishman” was the first to become wildly popular in the United States. (I haven’t read it; that’s one of the 20). But I read “Return Journey,” “Charlie, Come Home,” “Mr. Sermon” and others. Loved them all.

At long last I’ve begun reading “A Horseman Riding By,” a two-volume saga consisting of the novels “Long Summer Day” and “Post of Honor,” followed by a sequel, “The Green Gauntlet.” What compelled me finally to read them was the thought: If not now, just when do you plan to enjoy them? What the hell are you waiting for?

It was a wake-up call, and I sounded the alarm myself. Lately I’ve been a lazy reader, preferring to spend my evenings, after a long day (often frustrating) working on my new novel “The Coffin Haulers,” lying propped up in bed and watching idiotic TV shows. It takes no effort to watch TV, but when I read I’m also working, studying how a writer sets a scene or describes a character, or transitions between scenes, and how the writer ends a chapter.

That’s fine to a certain extent, but reading should be, first and foremost, pleasure. And so I decided that since in my youth I read Delderfield for pleasure, that’s how I would read him now: reading for no other reason than to enjoy the story, not to take mental notes on technique as I went along.

I began reading “Long Summer Day” on Friday night, and it sure beats anything on TV.

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From → My Novels, Verbiage

2 Comments
  1. Nice post. I still have several books from my college days that I have never thrown out. Always planned to read this one huge book on Chinese Civilization. I passed the class by renting an invalid walker—a long story.

  2. First, thanks for following my blog, Bill. Second, I think you have the makings of a good story with that “invalid walker” angle.

    In addition to the books I still have from college, I have a set of English and Modern American Literature from high school. (One selection is “Beowulf” written in Old English.) The paper is made from nearly 100 percent rag (no wood pulp), in perfect condition, and I can still smell the wonderful aroma of ink on good paper when I open them.

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