Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Who has time to read?

Several years ago, Bill Maher's cable program Politically Incorrect (before it became a network crap-fest; about the time it was becoming a cable crap-fest) had a segment called Who Has Time to Read?

I laughed at the joke, as Bill mocked Americans by summarizing some recent bestseller, reading a few humorous excerpts. Sometimes the humor was even intended by the book's author. The beauty of the segment was that the viewing audience could banter about said book around the work water cooler without having to actually read it.

Well, the joke is on me. I haven't read a new book in years. I read parts of them (but never finish them). Or I buy them and never read them. Or I just think about buying them.

Life of Pi. Loved it. At least, the 60 pages I read.
Cryptonomicon. Loved it. At least, the 100+ pages I read.
Wolves of the Calla. Loved it. At least, the 40 pages I read.
The Tortilla Curtain. Loved it. At least, the 80 or so pages I read. (This one goes back to at least 1999, so maybe it started here).

Ooh, I just remembered a book I actually read. Kirsty MacColl: The One and Only by Karen O'Brien. It's not very good. You never feel like you get to know anything important--or even interesting--about Kirsty. You get a better sense of Kirsty by reading Billy Bragg's one page Foreward to the book than by reading the book itself. Or reading the liner notes for her compilation album, Galore.

So, that's it. One bad biography in the last five years. I did recently purchase the new biography of Dolley Madison, A Perfect Union (I hope it has her snack cake recipe in it). Maybe some day I'll finish it. But who has time to read?

I'm sure there are books out there I would enjoy. I tried reading a couple of best sellers, but they were dreck (The Celestine Prophecy, I'm looking at you).

I have managed to re-read some old favorites recently (Water Music by T. Coraghessan Boyle, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft). Lynda Barry's Cruddy, which I first read in 1999, is tugging at my brain again. Maybe as you get old, you just want to re-read your favorites, instead of wasting all the time on something unproven.

Hey, that list reminds me! There is another book I actually read recently: Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in New Orleans by Jerry Strahan. It is a factual account of managing a hot dog vendor company in the Big Easy. I kid you not. The Lucky Dog vendors are fictionalized as Paradise Hot Dog vendors ("12 inches of paradise") in A Confederacy of Dunces.

Oh, and I did make myself read each book from Lord of the Rings before the corresponding movie debuted. Parts of each book were fantastic. Parts of each book were horrible; it was mental torture to make myself finish each one before the next movie came out. And the movies came out a year apart.

OK, so I've read one bad biography, one decent autobiography, and three old fantasy novels. That's only five new (to me) books in five years.

I really must make more time for reading. But who has time to read?


Blogger Roscoe said...

Dude, move to New York and get an apartment 45 minutes to an hour away from your job and about 30 minutes from pretty much anywhere you would want to be, and (here's the kicker) don't buy a car so you are the slave of the subways. You'll find yourself reading more than you would have ever thought possible. I read Proust's In Search Of Lost Time almost entirely on the A train between 207th Street and Times Square.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Pooji said...

I can't read in an environment like that. I'm afraid I'll get too absorbed in the reading and miss my stop.

If I do opt for "the Roscoe option" it will be at least 7 years away. Gotta get the kids through high school first. Then I can re-arrange my life to accommodate more reading.

7:47 PM  

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