“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
— Oscar Wilde
Now that I’m beginning my retirement, I’ve reveled in the idea that I can read anything I want. No more reading to prep for classes or books to keep up with my field. So, this quote from Wilde has had me thinking about how I intend to fulfill my love for reading now that I have so many hours to choose whatever I want. I’ve come to the conclusion that there probably won’t be drastic changes to my reading lists or schedule. Perhaps fewer critical texts, although I cannot completely squash my curiosity for Latinx literary criticism after 40 years of teaching.
I will surely return to classics that I love or have not read. I agree with Thoreau that one should “read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” But most likely I will spend many hours reading contemporary novelists and poets, especially if they are writing from a multi-ethnic perspective. Reading these writers will primarily allow me to see what fellow writers are doing today, but it also gives me an opportunity to review their work on my blog. I firmly believe there aren’t enough critics reviewing these writers.
On my current to-read list are Whitehead’s The Nickle Boys, Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, Llanos-Figueroa’s Daughters of the Stone, Vera’s The Taste of Sugar, and Frank Lima’s Incidents of Travel in Poetry. Because I always try to read as a writer, the usual book on craft will find its way to my stack of books. The latest one is Saunders’ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading and Life.
Without a doubt, I will continue to read to research future projects. I’ve accumulated several books on Roberto Clemente, Afro-Latinx and Afro-Puerto Rican history and culture, and race, in general, for my novella on him. I’ve started a list of books on the history of Central Park for a future short story collection and on a bookshelf several books on the Salsa scene in New York City await as I explore a potential topic for a future creative nonfiction book.
So, following Wilde’s logic, I guess I just can’t help being a writer. My reading is always centered on that part of me.