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Binging

I confess I am smitten with Holder, a detective in “The Killing.” The actor, Joel Kinnaman, is Swedish but he sounds African-American. His performance is intriguing. I'm hooked and have just started Season 3. Oh it is dark, monstrous indeed. And I’ve finished the most recent Netflix additions of “Longmire,” all of “Foyle’s War,” all the back episodes of “Blue Bloods,” “Paradise,”(PBS), and on we go. I recommend series to friends and family and they recommend series to me. It’s a bonanza, a renaissance. And it seems that with all the bad news every day, we need this escape. Everyone I know is doing it.

My husband has different tastes and other favorites. There are nights, usually late at night—our binging time—too tired to read or do anything else that needs doing—that we sit side by side on the couch, one of us on an ipad with a headset, the other with a headset for the TV. (We alternate.) Headsets—an electronic miracle—have saved and/or amplified our marriage. The next day we might say, “So how is your program going?” It’s a life-affirming diversion from the latest news about ISIL, IFIL or school shootings. Another this week. How many have there been since Obama took office? In a strong, well-written speech (he has good writers and is a good writer), I think he said: 18. No wonder we binge.

But how does a working writer justify this binging? And is it interfering with the writing life? I am not sure. For certain, I must curtail my viewing and read more if I want to make progress on a writing project. But I also know that it is relaxing, compelling even to watch these shows, mostly well scripted with high production values. And I admire a good script, strong plots and deep characterization with interesting backstory. When I am writing fiction, plotting is not my strength, so I am paying attention. My husband is a screenwriter and he is able to parse the script in a way I can’t. We’re working on a screen treatment together at the moment (we’ve done two together so far) and the learning curve is still steep for me—visualizing scenes and so on. I do believe—another justification, perhaps—that binging has helped my visualization muscle.

So there’s that. I’m absorbing, studying and relaxing all at the same time. And I still binge on authors, reading their entire oeuvre, something I have done for years. It’s a wonderful way to get into the author’s head: What are her obsessions? Her narrative choices? How has her work changed as she has matured? How happy I was to discover that I could download all of Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, Trollope, Emily Dickinson, Willa Cather, Dickens, and so much more, all for free! I read a lot, sometimes two or three books at the same time—fiction and nonfiction. And I have finally installed the Overdrive app on my iPad so I can borrow e-books from the library. They don’t have everything I want to read—and I am impatient—but I can put books on hold and also recommend books. They have to be read within three weeks, so no binging if a book from the library has to get read. I stop cold turkey. This reassures me that I am not addicted.

Once upon a time there was a website called “Readerville,” avid readers and writers chatting about the books they were reading. One of the threads was devoted to comments about authors and their oeuvre, all of the oeuvre. We all binged on favorite writers, many in the chat room were writers, and it was easy to imagine—though it took some hubris—that one day someone would binge on our oeuvre. I miss that site , which shut down too soon, though I learned recently that there is a thread of former Readerville “members” on Goodreads. I’ll have to check it out.



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