Sunday, August 02, 2009

Getting back on an even keel...

One of the things I didn't get to do nearly enough of during the time I took care of my mother was reading. It wasn't so much a matter of time constraints as that it was difficult to get to the library, and while I own a good number of books, that didn't mean that I always really wanted to read the books that were on hand.

Anyway, I've been trying, in the past few months since my mother died, to get back into the habit of reading...and of finishing the books I start. I've always been bad about picking up a book and starting it and then never quite getting around to finishing. Part of that is the fact that I just won't finish a book that I don't like; I might be OCD about a lot of things, but that isn't one of them. And part of it is that when a book is due at the library, it has to go back even if you're not done with it. Since I depend so much on libraries for my reading material, that is often a factor.

But, I've determined that I'm going to read more books, and I'm going to try to finish more of the books I begin. And I'm going to write about reading. If I do that, maybe I'll be more conscientious (damn...spelled it right the first time; go me!) about finishing the books I start. It just wouldn't do to have to keep writing, started X book...didn't finish; started Y book...sat it down halfway through; started Z book...threw it across the room.

(Yes, I throw books across the room. I threw The Grapes of Wrath across the room in high school; and I've been throwing them ever since. I would have thrown Catcher in the Rye in eighth grade, but I hadn't quite gotten yet that just because it was assigned didn't mean that I had to actually finish the cursed thing.)

The fact that I haven't been finishing things, however, doesn't mean that I haven't been reading anything. I've started lots of books in the past few months. And I've either gotten bored, or gotten hold of something that is more interesting than what I was reading when I found it, or just forgot that I was reading it and had to take it back to the library. There were even one or two that were just unbearable.

Anyway...I'm in the middle of three books now. Well, four, but one was put down so long ago that I'm not counting it, and besides that one is a re-read, so it isn't quite as bad that I haven't finished it this time.

I'm reading a silly trifle, Dirty Sexy Knitting, by Christie Ridgway (New York: Berkeley Books, 2009). Basically a romance novel, and not my usual sort of reading, but it's fun...although it hasn't exactly scorched my eyeballs yet, as the fellow knitter down at Ancient Pathways (my local knitting shop) who brought it in to pass around said it would. Maybe I just read more, um, adventurous, things than she does.

On a more serious note, I'm reading History as Mystery, by Michael Parenti (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1999). This one is interesting, basically trying to make the case that most of history as we know it is a lie, or at least willful misdirection in order to make the powers that be look good. Parenti, a Ph.D. in history, has made some good points so far, but his is basically a Marxist interpretation of history, something I'm not that big a fan of...not because it's Marx, but because I've always found it kind of a simplistic way to look at history. There's lots of finger-pointing at those he does not agree with, without much of the same toward those he does agree with but who have done some of the same things that he criticizes. Still, as I said, he is making some points that probably need to be made if historiography is not going to degenerate (if it hasn't already) into a tug-of-war between ideologies. I'll be writing more about all of this once I've finished reading and thought about it all a bit. Which is one thing I like about this book...about any book...I love a book that makes me think about things, and that challenges me to confront my own biases and opinions.

The third book I'm reading is West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders and Killers in the Golden State, by Mark Arax (New York: Public Affairs, 2009). This is a series of essays, some that have appeared in different form elsewhere, that grew out of Arax's work as a journalist and out of his own life. Very, very good so far. I read his first book, In the Name of My Father, which is a memoir about his family, growing up in Fresno, and dealing with the murder of his father when Arax was a teenager, when it was first published. Now, this past Saturday, he came and spoke to my Sisters in Crime group and so I had the chance to get this new book as well as a copy of his first book, which I will re-read soon.

Arax's talk Saturday was fabulous, by the way. It has me more motivated than I have been in a long time to get on with my writing. It's nice to hear the other writers who come speak to the group, but most of them are novelists and short story writers. Which is fine; I'm trying to learn how to write fiction. But I mostly write non-fiction, and I self-identify as a non-fiction writer rather than as a would-be novelist. So, it was good to hear from someone who does what I do, what I try to do. And I loved that he said that the objective of a non-fiction writer is not objectivity, which is impossible unless you are a robot, but fairness. This is something I've believed for a long time, and it was nice to hear that a writer as successful as he is agrees.

Well, it's late, and 7 a.m. comes very early. I just hope I can get to sleep; I slept 'til 10:30 Sunday morning, and then took a three-hour nap in the afternoon. Catching up was a good thing, but now I'm not sleepy although it's after midnight.

Oh, and I wanted to ask you...what are all of you reading right now?


WaltzInExile said...

After your list, I'm almost (but not quite) too embarrassed to say that I'm reading nothing but fluff right now. However, it's darn good fluff (if not too scorchy yet, either), so here goes:
I'm on book 2 of Karen Moning's "Fever" series. I had to get to Chapter 3 of the first one before the hook grabbed me and I couldn't turn away (I leave them, too, if I just can't get into it) but it came highly recommended by a trusted source, so I kept hanging in there and now I'm so glad!

P.S. What do you mean, we didn't have to finish the assigned readings? I could have chucked all that Hemingway?!

McMGrad89 said...

I just finished Look Me In the Eye by John Elder about growing up with Asperger's Syndrome which my daughter has. I have The Shack on my shelf. I might have read the first page, but never got around to actually starting. Now that school is starting my reading will mostly be YA stuff. There is only so much time in a day.

littlemissattitude said...

Yeah. You could have chucked all that Hemingway. But I probably should have mentioned that chucking Steinbeck didn't do my grade in that class a lot of good.

But I still maintain that it was worth it. That three-page description of a turtle crossing the road was just too much for me to handle. Of course, it might not have been three actual pages, but it sure seemed like it at the time.

It's the same reason I can't read Tolkien. The man thought he had to describe everything in detail. Which is fine, unless is stops the story dead in its tracks. I actually got half-way through "Fellowship of the Ring"...but only because I was supposed to be reading it for a class.

littlemissattitude said...

That book about Asperger's Syndrome sounds interesting. A friend's daughter has been diagnosed as having that, but I don't know a whole lot about it.

As for the day only having so many hours: I keep trying to figure out how I can get by on less sleep, so that I can have more time to do things like read and knit, but I'm getting too old to pull all-nighters...although I tried last night.

It seems like 7 a.m. (when my alarm goes off) just gets earlier and earlier.

djmeurer said...

My current reading list is mostly fluff, though I seldom bother to read stuff that isn't fluff. I'm still reading Wicked, which is interesting, but not enough so that I let it mess with my knitting time. I just started some vampire fluff (I think it's called Marked). I'm listing to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows while I fall asleep at night and Magyk (I think I spelled that right) and Tale of Two Cities (through the podcast craftlit) while I knit or wait for Darren. You might like Craftlit. It's done by a former high school English teacher and is all novels. She discusses the chapters, then puts in recordings of the chapters. I know you hate Dickens, but there's some other good stuff on there (and she say's that she hated Dickens at first too). Oh, and Darren and I are listening to Eclipse together (more vampire fluff).

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