From August through December 2012, I was almost physically unable to read books. Picking up a book, I found myself incapable of the sustained concentration necessary to make sense of phrases, sentences, paragraphs. I would read the same thing over and over again, my mind wandering into blankness. It felt, in a very real way, as though my eyes were slipping off the page. Reading books had always been a means of sustaining myself, and so forgetting how to read was very much like forgetting how to eat.
I would be lying if I said it wasn’t frightening. The qualitative aspect of this bizarre reading aphasia (for lack of a better term) was a persistent feeling of restlessness when I was trying to engage with a book—as though my brain would rather be doing something, anything, else.
This condition mostly persisted until late April of last year, when I moved from the countryside of Pennsylvania—where I’d lived within a stone’s throw of dilapidated barns and old orchards—to Oakland, California. I had hoped that the warmer weather, the change in time zone, and my new proximity to an actual city would shake something loose in my head.
Within a few weeks of my arrival, I’d found and finished Mahmud Rahman’s Killing the Water, a collection of short stories that moves from Bangladesh to Boston to Detroit and finally to Oakland. READ MORE…