You know what I want? I want George Michael to put out an album where he sings all of the James Bond theme songs. That would be bad ass. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything else I’m thinking about, or planning on writing about, but it would still be bad ass.
I’ve been reading a lot more lately. Okay, that’s a lie. I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately. I spend at least an hour and a half in the car every day, which means that I can get through a standard length audio book in a week. That’s a lot of “reading” for me. And it’s been wonderful.
Fortunately, I’ve been presented with a very good run of competent readers. As anyone who’s listened (I have a very difficult time not using the word “read”) to an audio book can tell you, there are an awful lot of bad readers, which leave you never wanting to listen to another book again. So much, in fact, that I find myself looking up additional books performed by the readers rather than other books written by the authors. I have yet to cash in on any of those finds, but that’s only because I haven’t gone through my initial list of books yet.
Maybe someday. After all, I don’t intend to stop driving anytime soon.
One thing I’ve begun thinking about during all of this reading (I’m just going to call it reading, because listening sounds stupid, and these are, after all, being read directly from books), is what comprises a good book for me. Not what used to, not what other people think, but what currently keeps my interest, makes me think, and/or makes me want to go back for more. It’s very apparent that the books I would have enjoyed in my younger years no longer hold the same fascination, other than in golden, nostalgic dreams of words only half remembered. I’m just not that guy anymore. Part of my brain fears this, when it looks at the recent trend, noting that pulp crime and adventure is now taking precedence over the more intellectual and even philosophical books that I once enjoyed.
Calm down, brain, I tell it, you still like those books, you’re just going through a phase. A very long phase. With very little variety.
I’ve tried to break that mold on occasion… and until recently didn’t complete a single one. These are good books mind you, but I just haven’t gotten absorbed by them. The way, say, a good Jack Reacher yarn can do to me. Which brings me to a sad thought, and good transition point – even those books hold less magic for me now.
There was a time when I eagerly awaited Lee Child’s new book. I’d buy it, and use every spare second of time I could muster to devour the words. But now they’re just… okay. I can’t really say if the stories aren’t as good, or if the writing has become lazy, but they just feel haphazardly written. I’m getting kind of tired of Jack Reacher. Not because he isn’t still the biggest bad-ass around, or that the way he thinks through things (okay, admittedly it was often very contrived, but still engaging) is so methodical, but because I know him too well. And knowing him too well is making me tired of pulp.
Over the past couple of years I’ve tried reading (actually reading, mind you) Ayn Rand’s “Anthem,” Jonathan Littell’s “The Kindly Ones,” and Iain Bank’s “The Algebraist,” all of them great. But I didn’t make it through a single one. What did I make it through? Two different Lee Child books (and the first 6 of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books, on audiobook, and yes I lump them into the same pulp category as Lee Child).
I was in a book store a couple of months ago, not to buy anything, but because I missed the smell of books. I’d searched for a used book store, hoping for that aged smell of paper that you don’t get anywhere else, but alas, the one I found couldn’t provide that. On a side note, I’ve been spoiled by Powell’s in Portland, and Smith Family in Eugene, OR, and no other stores have ever compared in terms of volume or variety. But, what I did find was something that opened me up to new book experiences.
For the first time in a while, I was presented with “staff recommendation” cards placed under certain titles. My thoughts went back a decade, and I remembered all of the previous books that I’d discovered in that very way. Fresh, creative authors like Richard K. Morgan and Nick Sagan. So I did what I used to do, and tried something new.
Superheroes/mutants are popular, and it’s a pretty standard genre, with few breakouts such as “Heroes” and “Hitchcock,” but I was inspired by Marcus Sakey’s “Brilliance.” I was equally impressed with Andy Weir’s space castaway book “The Martian.” Neither of them are what I would call groundbreaking, but they’ve re-established my esteem for actual literature. I find myself looking forward to new books, instead of seeing them as a way to make my commute more bearable. For the first time in a long time, I look forward to entertainment elsewhere than on the television.
I think that is a good thing.