14 May 2009

Required Reading

Friend Patrick's going to kill me for this one.

I just realized, referencing Library Thing (an online resource I do not endorse; I'm just too lazy to switch to something else just yet), that the last four books I've read have to one degree or another been arduous experiences for me. If you're reading this relatively recent to when I wrote it, and actually from my 'blog's site, you can see for yourself which books these have been in the widget ovah he-ya:

<--go left and down a ways I should say "have been and still are," as I am bound and determined to finish Love in the Time of Cholera. It is a book I might've enjoyed under different circumstances. Say, oh, when I'm spending my days floating on an inner tube out on a very placid, contemplation-encouraging lake, perhaps drinking a lush and fruity beverage. But somehow, in the midst of New York's hubbub, all I can think while reading it is: Gabriel - GET. ON. WITH. IT! This might inspire a lesser man to put the book down. (Read: smarter man.) But not I! Nay! I shall be able to say that I read the book and, in addition, that I did not enjoy it! And what a proud day that will be for this great, stupid man, indeed. I think it's a great book, actually, and think the same about The Road, and Revolutionary Road. I have no explanation for why roads are good right now. They just are. (And you may notice that I'm rather damning one book by way of omission, which is entirely intentional, I assure you.) The hard, cold fact is that a book can be very good indeed, and yet one may not personally appreciate it.

In fact, the last book that I read and truly enjoyed (I measure enjoyment largely by how eager the book makes me to climb into the subway) was one I've read before: American Gods. I daresay I enjoyed it more this time around than my first, too. It was also the most intentional book I've read in a while. I meant to read it. I chose it. I chose the others, too, to one extent or another, but they all also came my way by circumstance. American Gods is the only one of the group that I actively sought. Of course, I knew I'd like it somehow, given I knew what to expect. The opposite thinking is what's behind my usual strategy of reading. By following a course of coincidence and circumstance, I stand a better chance of being surprised, and taking in new ideas from moment to moment. Alas, this approach can backfire, and here we are, with roughly five weeks of unappreciated reading behind us.

My plan is to apply a little more intention to my reading, and I naturally welcome any suggestions from you, Dear Reader. As to what my intentions are, they are of course entirely honorable, I assure you. My first priority is to find novels that compel me to read on. I feel I owe my psyche this after four books that having required some psyching-up before each read. (Patrick is banging his head on his monitor right now. Patrick, I can hear the thudding from 31st Street!) That can be a difficult basis for choice, however, so my second criteria is a little more specific. I want to read novels either in the general style of, or dealing with the general subject matter pertaining to, the writing I keep trying to make time to do. That means good fantasy or magical realism stories, and books about cadavers and death. What I lack in style, I certainly make up for in viscera.

I have a real inclination toward imitation-of-style (read: outright theft) when I'm writing, so what I'm reading at the time invariably influences me. I've not found this to be true of writing dialogue for a script, but I may simply be lacking perspective enough to perceive it. Or perhaps that work is more influenced by conversation than by what I read. In which case, while my promised werewolf story is in present danger of ruminating at great length on complex, plot-grinding character studies, the Hereafter revisions are currently threatened by the possibility of very, very dry and official administrative speak. This, I think, is ample justification for going out and having really fun and surprising social interactions this weekend. It is required!

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