I think I have a problem.
I start to read, I rush the beginning, the opening sentence. I glance over the characters. Details are revealed, usually clothes, and I just jump over them. I land in the dialogue, properly wake up.
My imagination starts to fizz. Is this American author writing in an English voice? Is this clearly a male short story writer trying to sound like a woman? Is this literary cross-dressing? The questions die down and I'm comfortable.
Then the description returns. Exposition. I have to go over the previous sentence or else it feels like I'm losing something even if it's only a few prepositions. I cling to the exposition, waste time on going over it again and again. I try to put myself into the scenario, remind myself of what certain sequences of words mean and have I read them before? From this writer or someone else? This happens a lot with genre fiction but it's not exclusive to it.
If the story is literary then I slow down to soak it all in. If the story is genre then I zip through. If the story is literary then I'm stewing in my own pretentiousness as well as the writer's. If the story is genre then I'm conscious that some of these characters resemble cardboard.
I cheer up every time dialogue comes along, even rehearse it for a voice acting job I'll never even apply for, let alone get. I wade through the details, thankful for every simple sentence and uncomplicated word or idea. I stop if I start judging words by their singular complexity.
I finally get into it, the plot, usually midway between chapters. I know what's going on and it's terribly exciting precisely because I know what's going on. I stop and check - thirty pages. That means it's a good session. I try for more.
I become conscious of the time limit I need to abide to: got a dog to walk or a train to disembark in three stops. I lose my place. Other thoughts intrude. My fault. Snippets of prior conversations return to me, quick retorts finally occur. I have to focus on individual lines. I am an idiot.
My imagination keeps floating back to the movie depiction of the character. The character suddenly doesn't seem real anymore. I'm too attracted to him/her. I think about the actor, what they'll be in next. I try my hardest to forget about them, dress the character up as someone I know that fits the rather unflattering aspects of the physical description. This works for a while but the face develops soft lighting and healthy Hollywood pores.
I put the book down, I don't close it, just lower it onto my lap. I look around, remind myself how boring reality is, that it's not snuck off just yet and I don't need to worry about this happening anytime soon. I pick up the book again and find my place. My imagination remains on the fritz but I'm back in the story, back in the character, back in the plot.
Nevertheless I keep checking how many pages I have left to go till the end of the book. Is this text actually very small? Is the line spacing too regular? Am I an idiot being led along by hand? Is the author fully aware of my short attention span? Why not do more about it then?
My imagination is working on the wrong thing here, I bring myself back on topic. The self-made time limit is coming to an end. This is turning into a fitful sleep, I'm waking up ahead of time and checking that I still have long enough to make something of it.
The character says something philosophical at the end of the page. I'm trying my best to consider the deeper implications but it doesn't feel honest. I'm flummoxed. I think I get where the character is coming from though.
I'm drifting off so I stop. I regret it. I think perhaps I'm going about the whole process in the wrong way. I never would have known I was so neurotic if not for this healthy passion for reading. I feel alone and that's fair enough, it's just me and a writer who has long since moved on. Now I'm the only one putting in the work.
I want to be a writer. It would just be nice to immerse myself in something.