Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 11 - Reading a Book in One Day/Crime and Punishment

I have never read a book from start to finish in one day.  That stated, doing so was not my original plan for today.  After all, I had the full day off of work and there were plenty of outdoor activities I was eager to check off of my "I have never..." list. However, the persistence of the rainy weather that began last night made it nearly impossible to follow through with any outdoor events this morning. As a result, I put into motion an alternative "I have never..." plan to tackle reading a classic novel in one day.  As an added bonus, I chose to read a novel I had never read before today's challenge.

Crime and Punishment
Shortly after deciding outdoor plans were out of the question, I spent a few minutes of the early morning hours combing through the rows of books lining the shelves of my office bookcase. After some consideration of my available choices, I landed on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a novel I had always intended to read but never made time to do so. I grabbed the book from the shelf and weighed the feasibility of reading it all in one day. Flipping to the back page of the novel revealed the number 408 printed in the upper right hand corner of the last piece of aged, off-white paper.  "I can do that," I thought as I nodded my head in approval. In turn, I tucked the book under my arm and grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen before I found a comfortable place on the couch and began reading.

At first, I found it difficult to stay focused on my task. I'm not usually one to read fiction, which posed some challenges for me. Additionally, I found myself checking the clock to measure my pace every few pages, which served more as a distraction than a help. Each time I did so I would silently work through the math of pages to time passed and create an estimate of the time I would finish reading while trying to read the words on the pages before me. I found myself re-reading passages as their contents became lost in my efforts to crunch the numbers, which obviously served only to hinder my effort. I took a deep breath and convinced myself to avoid the clock. I made a pointed effort to concentrate on the content of the story, which had just been set into motion by the protagonist's internal battle between living a life of poverty and dependence or choosing to commit a violent criminal act in desperation. My concentration centered on the events unfolding in the book, and I finally began to find myself getting lost in the story.

The pages started to fly by as Rodion, the main character of the book, acted on his desperation and immediately began to struggle with the weight of his actions. I found myself envisioning the scenes laid out in each paragraph as Rodion, wracked with guilt, struggled to face each day, fell ill, and sought an outlet to ease his self-inflicted misery. The perspective of the story, told in third-person from the criminal's point of view, was new to me. Dostoyevsky's words described the emotions Rodion was going through in such a manner I could almost feel the anxiety, remorse, and fear that riddled his mind. At next glance, I was stunned to see two hours had passed in what had seemed like a matter of minutes. With my concern about my reading pace removed by my involvement in the story, I continued to press further into the book knowing my choice for today's "I have never..." event was a good one.

My view for the majority of the day

Hours passed as I remained engaged in the unfolding drama of Crime and Punishment.  I was intrigued by Rodion's slow decline into internal isolation and questionable mental stability as the traces of humanity left in him strived to right his wrongs through good deeds and personal reflection. I was wrapped up in the words on each page as they built on the plot and made a clearly deranged criminal seem human. About half way through the novel I realized I had failed to acknowledge a feeling of hunger that had likely occupied me for several hours. I then realized it was the middle of the afternoon and I had yet to eat lunch. I moved to prepare something to eat, placing the book in locations that made it easy to read all the while. Once prepared, I ate with one hand as to not prevent me from continuing the story. After finishing my meal, I set my plate on the table in front of me and glanced out one of the dining room windows.  Unbeknownst to me, the dreary weather had broke at some point during the day and the sun was shining brightly. For the rest of the afternoon I rotated between positions in my house and in the backyard as I continued reading.

Nearing the end... At least I had some company
Before I could acknowledge the time again, Rachael arrived home from work. She was courteous in trying to avoid distracting me as she immediately caught on to my objective for the day. Several more hours passed as I remained locked in my reading position and Rachael milled about the house taking care of the chores I should have addressed throughout the day. At last, I reached the final pages of the novel as dusk faded to night. Crime and Punishment left me heavy hearted at the torment, misery, and loss felt by every character in the book, but I reveled in the fact that I read the book, cover to cover, in a single day. Check that one off the list!

I'm sure I will encounter opportunities to do what I will now refer to as "marathon reading" in the future, and there are more than a few books I have in mind for such and event. That said, my first experience reading a book in one day left me with some mixed feelings. While I'm glad I finally read Crime and Punishment, I feel like completing this task in one day proved an inefficient use of my time.  After all, I lost track of hours at a time, overlooked the basic need for food, and failed to recognize the beautiful weather that appeared at some point today. In addition, I feel slightly conflicted about sitting on my ass all day when there are plenty of other things I should be doing. Sure, I gave my brain a solid workout and became slightly more "cultured" from the experience, but I feel like I can accomplish these things without committing the better part of a full day to reading one book. As a result, I think I will leave marathon reading for long flights and sick days going forward. That way I can still get in a good read every once in awhile and retain my ability to act like a normal, responsible, and showered human being.

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