Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sweet frustrations...

As a compulsive and voracious reader, I get frustrated when I can’t find something to read.

You would probably laugh at that statement if you could see where I’m living. Between my roommate and myself, there must be at least a couple of thousand books in the apartment. I have not come close to reading all of them.

Still, sometimes I find myself wandering from bookshelf to bookshelf, repeating the lament, “But I can’t find anything to read.”

I know. Cue the violins and the weeping.

It sounds stupid, but it is a real problem. While I love to read, there are books – there are whole genres, really – that I’m not that keen to read. And even within the genres of fiction and topics in non-fiction that I do enjoy reading, I’m not in the mood to read all the books all the time. If I’ve read three mysteries in a row, for example, I’d probably want to read something else before I read another mystery.

I’ve had this problem a lot lately, and I go through periods like this from time to time. It gets so that I just can’t find anything I want to read. I suspect that the current troubles are at least partly due to the fact that I’ve been writing a lot, and I don’t want what I’m reading to bleed through into what I’m writing.

I’m not really worried about ideas creeping from my reading into my writing, but more about tone and voice. One time, last year, I was working on something that I was writing in third-person omniscient. Then I started reading a book that was written in the first person. Imagine my surprise (and dismay), when I realized that I’d written the last several thousand words in first-person rather than third.

Sigh. I haven’t gone back to that project yet.

However, I’m not here to complain, but to say that I’ve managed to find myself an embarrassment of riches. I’ve got two books, both out of the library, that are, at least so far, fantastic. They’re both so good that I wish I could read both at the same time. When I sit down to read, it is difficult for me to decide which one I want to spend time with.

(Actually, the main reason I’m writing this rather than reading right now is that, when I sat down intending to read for a while before starting dinner, I couldn't decide which one I wanted to pick up.)

One is fiction, 11/22/63 (Scribner, 2011; 849 pages), by Stephen King. I found this one at the library on Monday, sat down and started reading just to see if I was going to like it – it has gotten good reviews, but I haven’t felt moved to pick up any of King’s work in several years – and found it mesmerizing from the first pages. The other is Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales from a Rock’n’Roll Life (Rodale, 2009; 280 pages), by rock critic Robert Hilburn, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times for many years. I read Hilburn’s work in the Times for years and I love books on rock music, so when I found it today I could resist picking it up when I went to take some other books (books that looked good, but which ended up not catching my interest when I started to read them) back to the library.

I used to have this problem, having two (or more) good books to read at the same time, a lot. I don’t know if it is because I’ve read many more books by now, or if there just aren’t as many good books coming out now, or that I’m just getting picky in my old age. Whatever the case, I rarely have two good reads in hand at the same time now.

I plan to enjoy this sweet frustration, and hope that this is a sign that it will happen more often.

Because, man, I really do get cranky when I can’t find anything good to read.

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