The "No Bullshit" Reader and Reading Rituals

The “Bullshit” Reader

One of the great things about writing for your own blog is that you get to research terms like “bullshit.” My research indicates the first person to use the term “bullshit” was T. S. Eliot. Between 1910 and 1916 he wrote a poem entitled “The Triumph of Bullshit.” The first stanza read:

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited
If you consider my merits are small
Etiolated, alembicated,
Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,
Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,
Impotent galamatias
Affected, possibly imitated,
For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass.

There’s a scene starring Maya Rudolph in Up All Night where she has to read a book to prepare for an interview with a popular non-fiction author who has written about the economic collapse. As she sits down to read she spends time preparing her tea and getting comfortable in her chair. She adjusts her position several times and scoots around in her chair. I think she even has on a snuggie. She reads the front cover and the back cover. Just about the time she starts to read the first page she’s ready to quit and does. Her character is the epitome of the bullshit reader.

Bullshit equals nonsense. Bullshit is something you can just as well do without. Bullshit includes any wasted movement and energy which leads to excuses.

The “No-Bullshit” Reader

The no-bull shit reader, on the other hand, doesn’t care where he is or what he’s reading. He just wants to read. He can read just as easily on a crowded subway as his favorite easy chair. To read, he needs only a book and a few spare moments. The book, he always has. For that reason, he finds time.

The no-bullshit reader has no problem finding something to read next because he has to read to stay sane. It’s not a matter of finding the perfect time so much as it is finding any time. It’s not a matter of finding the perfect book, because most books will do.

The no-bullshit reader is an efficient reading machine. His back may hurt and his eyes may suffer because he never reads in the proper light, but he gets his reading done.

Reading Rituals

This issue, however, gets a bit more complicated when you consider reading rituals. Rituals are things you do the same way every time. In that way, they become habit. Sure, they are symbolic in nature, but they trigger certain thought patterns and they can reinforce certain behaviors.

One man’s ritual is another man’s bullshit. Reading rituals are a grey area.

I go through phases. I fall in love with my Kindle for a few months and then transition to real books the next few. I will read mostly in bed one week and in my chair the next. When the sun comes out in the spring, I try to read in the hammock when the mosquitos aren’t swarming.

If I do anything the same way every time, it’s having a notebook and pen to jot down a quote or thought that comes to my while I read. Sometimes, in a bind, I’ll substitute an email note from my smartphone, but I always feel a bit naked without my notebook and pen.

The test is whether the action helps you get your reading done. The ultimate goal is to read. Don’t engage in self-deception. If you aren’t getting your reading done, abandon anything that may be bullshit.

How do you draw the line between bullshit and ritual? Do you have any reading rituals?

Photo: Some rights reserved by dullhunk


  1. Joseph Dante

    I think I do most of my reading on my bed, before bed. I don’t really prefer reading or writing in public at all because I get so easily distracted by people. I have some friends who do that, but I just can’t. I read things on the internet a lot (mostly literary journals, magazines, and blogs), although I don’t actually own a Kindle or a Nook or anything like that. I’m completely open to the whole e-book revolution that’s been happening – I just prefer having books in my hands I guess.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      That’s a pretty common thing to hear. Having a physical book preference is a form of ritual, I think. You just feel more comfortable with it and can’t necessarily explain why.

      I’m a bed reader as well. I sit in office chairs all days so being in any position other than that helps out, physically and mentally.

  2. Chris

    I read constantly. I read my kindle on the plane, in the metro, in bed, while my husband watches tv. I read free magazines and newspapers while I wait to start a class or for an appointment. I read blogs and newspapers online when I’m supposed to be researching for copywriting projects, and sometimes I go off on a research tangent when one source cites another. I’m completely addicted to reading. Before I had a kindle, when I was on a trip and finished all my books, I would read them again….I think my biggest fault as a reader is not taking notes or reflecting very much, sort of like people who inhale their food, I scarf down my books in oversized bites, and then wonder where they’ve gone.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      That’s funny. Part of the reason I started this blog was to slow down and reflect more on my reading. It’s helped quite a bit.

      I think, no matter how you do it, writing something about what you’ve read and knowing you’re going to have to do it takes your reading to another level.

      Of course, you have to be careful not to make reading so much of a chore that you stop doing it, too. That doesn’t sound like it’s an issue for you, though. 🙂

  3. T. Lloyd Reilly

    To read or not to read…let go of the bullshit and open the dam book! That’s how I do it.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Good advice!

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