Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bookish ...

Just got a comment from Anonymous. Not that Anonymous but another Anonymous. But in virtual print, all those Anonymi look alike.

Anyhoo, Anon du Jour wrote:

You read VOGUE (among "many magazines" you say you get), and you seem to watch an awful lot of movies. What about books? (Yes, that arcane art form -- novels, biographies, etc.)

I'm a recent visitor to your blog, but have been rather puzzled that a writer would cite so few books. I gather you're more "into" popular culture?

So. Books. Funny thing about me and books: Sometimes I'm on a book tear and I read and read and read. And other times, I'm like, "Eh. Books."

I always have a book on my bedside table. Sometimes, it's the same book for a long time. Other times, it changes frequently.

Currently, I have two books, both in various states of progress. The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier and The Assault on Reason by Al Gore. Both non-fiction, you'll note.

I like Sidney's book. I like his voice. I like that he uses profanity, not just because I'm a fan of profanity (sometimes, any other word just won't do) but because I love the unexpectedness of it coming from a man as refined as Mr. Poitier. And I also like that he's such a fan of the rhetorical question. He ends a lot of sentences with " ..., you see?" and "..., you know?"

I bought Al's book at Costco. I dove into it that very night. And I haven't picked it up since. It's not that I don't like his writing style. I think it might be a case of preaching to the choir. I am firmly in Al's camp. No need to convince me that our country's gone to hell in a handbasket. Sho 'nuff, Al. Things are fucked!

My cousin Patty works in publishing and now and again, a big box of books will show up at my door. You gotta love free books. I have built-in bookshelves in my TV room and they're filled, wall to wall, with books. I'm not one of those people who arranges objets d'art on my bookshelves amid a few pretentious art books stacked to serve as a pedestal. Hell no. I got books on my bookshelves. Lots of 'em. Most of 'em I've read. Some of 'em, waiting. When I feel like reading a new book, I wander over to the new-book section of my bookshelf and peruse the titles and pull one down and read the first page.

And then I pull another one down and read the first page.

And sometimes, none of the first pages interest me. Reading is a very personal pursuit and you have to find just the right book for just the right mood.

A couple summers ago, I read the sixth Harry Potter in 30 hours. I mean, I stopped to sleep and stuff, but from the time I cracked the cover to the moment I turned the last page, only 30 hours elapsed in my life. As you might know, it's a long-ass book. But it was hot out. So I stayed inside in the a/c and read.

Last September, I read The Corrections. My two-word review of that book was "self-congratulatory bloat." Holy crap, I hated that book.

But for those who are new to the blog, as Anon above, I'll repeat what I've said in the past about books: I almost never refuse to finish a book. I might not like the way a book begins, but I'll stick with it, presuming it will get better. Then, by the time I realize that it's not going to get better, I've read so many pages and invested so much time that it seems a shame not to finish.

I read all of The Corrections so I can say unequivocally that I hated it. I didn't hate part of it. I hated all of it. Not each individual word, but the overall experience of that book. The "payoff" was a total gyp. No, that's not the right description. The ending of The Ghost Writer was a gyp. The ending of The Corrections was asinine. Although the ending of The Ghost Writer was rather asinine, too. An asinine gyp.

I have all-time favorite books. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver and The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay are two at the top of the list. I also love, love, love the curious Incident of the dog in the night-time. I started this blog to tell people about that book. Seriously. I also love The Tiny One by Eliza Minot.

I'm on a mailing list from an independent bookstore in Vermont. Patty used to do the marketing there and put me on the list. I received a catalog recently and thought, "I should tell them to take me off the list." But then I thought, "No, this is a good way to keep up with things I want to read." Entertainment Weekly has a Books section. Newspapers, sadly, are shedding their book sections left and right. Yup, that's a good idea. Because what newspapers need are populations that are less interested in reading. Good thinkin', guys.

I was just telling a friend that I need to make better use of my library. I can do some serious damage in a bookstore. If I had unlimited funds, I would go once a week and buy anything that interested me. Unfortunately, I do not have unlimited funds. But I do have a library card. And a portion of my property taxes support the library. Ergo, I should take advantage of the library more often. My trips to the library, like my reading habits, wax and wane. But I need to wax more.

So, Anon, yes, I read books. I own a lot of books. Sometimes, I foolishly loan them out. Water for Elephants was a Patty Recommendation from last summer. I loaned it to a guy I thought was going to be part of my life moving forward. He disappeared and took my book with him. Happily, L.A. Dave sent a replacement to me. He likes to do his part to make up for the shortcomings of other members of his gender. He's swell.

Tell me about your favorite books. We can trade recommendations.



Blogger J. Marquis said...

I know what you mean about reading political books you already agree with. You might get a few more depressing details but it's hardly worth the effort.

Have you read "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver? I would put it on my all-time top 10 list.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I have indeed read Poisonwood. I didn't like it as much as some of her others, but she's a damn fine writer.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Wow. You bested me when it came to the last Harry Potter. It took me two weeks! Right now I'm reading Saturday Morning TV by Gary Grossman, but after that I plan to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret. My tastes are pretty diverse--a lot of nonfiction on pop culture, but I've also read a good deal of texts on psychology (my minor in college), mythology, and sociology.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(BTW, not THAT Anonymous.)

This summer I'm revisiting "The Remembrance of Things Past," reading a minimum of 40 pages a day -- a page count that's easy to meet & exceed when it's as hot as it was last weekend. Just flop on the couch in the comfort of the A/C & slip into Charles Swann's poor love-tortured mind...

And if the weather stays in the 90s much longer, I may set a record for whipping through Proust!!!

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You probably saw this, but a couple months ago Writer's Digest ran an article by Sara Gruen in which she discussed her research methods for "Water for Elephants."

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Doreen said...

You did not mention it seems you are not a fan of Tom Robbins work ... and I am head over heels about him :)

9:26 AM  
Anonymous girlanddog said...

Isn't Kingsolver amazing? I love The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer. If only I could write like her... I just finished reading Player Piano (by one of your faves, of course) and I'm reading a new book I pre-ordered called The Heartless Stone, about the reality of the diamond trade. Fascinating non-fiction, very well researched. Harry Potter is coming with me on a gazillion hour flight to Naples with three, count 'em, three stop-overs.

10:11 PM  

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