I’ve been thinking about how much sewing I’ve been doing lately, and I tried to remember what I used to do with my time before. And I remembered that I used to read. Growing up, I would read to the exclusion of everything else, read instead of playing with my brother, read at night until I would hear my mother shout-whisper “Go to bed!” from across the hall. I remembered all that, and I couldn’t remember the last new book I had read from start to finish.

So I picked up some Cormac McCarthy, thinking I should start with something good, and he’s so good he’s made me despair of having any goals. But The Crossing is as bleak and sad as it is well-written. I would read a paragraph and have to pause to absorb both how astonishing the prose was and how god-awfully depressing the events were. At that rate, I realized it would take me years to read it. And it was a library book.

So on Monday I returned The Crossing and picked out the exact opposite: a science fiction book about crystal miners in outer space, and (cringe) a Judith Krantz book. Something also made me get a Dashiell Hammett detective novel. By Wednesday morning, I had read both the outer space crystal book and the Judith Krantz. I had stayed up nearly all night both nights, not because I liked the books, oh no, but because I am incapable of not seeing what happens next. (That sentence explains a lot of my personal life over the years.) (And that is also why I will happily re-read books–I’m able to put them down.)

Anyway, due to lack of sleep and the literary equivalent of sugar-coated speed, I felt like I had a book hangover. I was dubious about reading anything more than the cooking time on the linguine box last night, but I peeked at the first page of the detective novel. (The Dain Curse), which begins, “It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick wall.” I kept reading. I didn’t hate myself for not being able to stop and sleep. I didn’t hate Hammett for lacking things like characterization, or vocabulary, or a point, becaus he had all those things. (Along with about twelve bodies, three suspects, and a pretty young morphine addict.) It was delightful. I went to bed happy–and yes, I finished it.