In the latest edition of his new newsletter, Subtle Maneuvers, Mason Currey details filmmaker Roberto Rossellini’s nighttime reading habit:
I don’t sleep much at night. I read in bed, always a number of books at the same time, often six or seven. I find it tiring to concentrate on a single book, to wait for the end… .
While reading, I have the courage to note on the books’ margin the ideas that come to me. Later, before shelving the books, I make up some bibliographic cards. I make signs with different colors so I know what’s most important, less important, what’s complementary, what’s basic, et cetera. And I also write down the thoughts that come to me, impressions absolutely virgin. I reread my notes on the books’ pages and I write them down in notebooks under headings divided by letters A, B, C, D. Then I write ‘human,’ ‘education,’ ‘thievery,’ et cetera. These cards, later on when I need them, will permit me to reconstruct a certain type of person.
The filmmaker claimed he annotated over 9000 books and that his nighttime reading — gathering “an extraordinary amount of information” — gave him the freedom to be improvisational on set during the day.
Rossellini practiced at least 3 of my favorite methods for turning reading into writing:
1. Promiscuous reading, or reading more than one book at a time.
2. Marginalia, or reading with a pencil.
3. Revisiting your notes and copying them for later use.
It occurs to me that I would read a whole Daily Rituals-style book called Reading Rituals, about how great minds read. (Then again, that’s probably what I’m doing with this reading category.)