Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Because I work in a bookstore people often ask what I'm reading. So I told them I would write a blogpost about it to direct them to, with a snapshot of what I have read recently or am reading now. I always tell people that I don't always finish books or I just skim them to get an idea so I can write a synopsis about it or talk about it to customers. In any case, here are a few things I've been dipping into or fully immersing myself in, many of which are strewn all over the house, so depending on where I am at that moment, it sort of dictates what I read.

So I tried to read the most recent Thomas Pynchon novel Against the Day. By all rights it should be something I like: funny, stuff about the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, witty dialogue, etc. But it was boring. I held out, I did. But after 50 pages I decided I had other things I wanted to read more. I am not shy about putting a book down if I can't get into it. Life is not that long and there are many things I want to read. I am OCD about many things but reading is not one of them. If something sucks I will not finish it. If If I taste food that sucks I'm not going to continue eating it. If I hear a song that I dislike I'm not going to go buy the album. And so on. Plus, it was a free copy so it's not like I paid for it. If I spent money on it would I try to fool myself and keep reading it? Or am I not trying very hard because it was free? But that's the thing -- I shouldn't have to try to enjoy something. The only thing I am willing to work on to try to enjoy is interpersonal relationships. And even my effort in that area needs some help.

Also free is a book that someone consigned at the store, and the item has no official name to it, except that the consignor just calls it MANIFESTO. So far I am about 10 pages in, and I didn't see a title anywhere. I just know it's called that because we sell it. It's a white paperback, and so far it's about the narrator's life, essentially being a free spirit bored by the school system until heading off to college. At the rate I'm going with the reading of it, it will probably go quickly. I mean, I'm a slow reader but I read 10 pages standing in a grocery line. It was that kinda dumpster dive-y CrimthInc feel to it but it's actually published by the International Artist Collectives. The weird thing about this book is that that one was also free because someone left a used copy of it in the doorway, like outside the door, before we were open. The had obviously bought it there (in the computer it had been sold only a day or two before, I saw on the sales record). The weird thing is that I go into work every day a few hours before the store opens to get paperwork type of stuff done, and there wasn't anything in the doorway. But then as I sat at the computer doing stuff there were people yanking at the door, which happens sometimes; people see me in there, and even without all the lights on, they think we're open (we don't typically open until noon or 11am on Saturdays). Then when the door doesn't open or they notice I'm not responding, they step back and puzzled, look at the hours. Then they see we don't open for a while. But they are confused. Why is there this lady sitting in there if they're not open? Then they start yanking on the door again. Sometimes I'll get up and move somewhere else in the store so they get the message. Anyway, so this was happening, someone yanking on the door and me doing my AM passive-agressive "I'm ignoring you" thing, and when I went to go turn over the open sign and unlock the door, I noticed someone had left this book. And I had always been very interested in reading it, because we sell a lot of them, sometimes I even talk to the consignor on the phone when they call to check up on its consignment status. Sometimes it even makes the Weekly Top 10, although if the truth be known, it often does not take much to be on the top 10. All you really need to sell is sometimes 2 or 3 copies of an item. On the other hand, the bookstore where I work sells thousands of things, so for us to sell more than one of something in the same week can actually be very rare. Sure, there are certain things that always sell well when they're new (certain popular zines or books by certain artists or writers), but then there are other things that no matter how old they are, they can sometimes make an appearance in those weekly bestsellers. This book is one of them. What's nice about it is a)it's free so I don't have to worry about getting it all mussed up and b)it is small and fits in my purse. I like to bring something to read in my bag at all times so that if I'm at the frocery or whatever, if I ever end up in some line somewhere, I try to have some reading material on me at all times.

Also, I've been reading short stories, a couple a night, from a wonderful anthology called Darwin's Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, which was also free. I think we got it from the publisher as a sample copy at work. So it's science fiction-ish stories about evolution, sort of little parables about society, what could happen (or could have happened) if we keep on going the way we're going, or perhaps how society could have evolved if certain things had happened. Lots of different authors have work in it. I really liked the one about how in the future being a celebrity will actually become outlawed. Another one is a love story about pneumatic tubes. Another story is about how those inclined toward the liberal arts becoming homeless. And another, one by William Gibson, is about people that become separated from their bodies (not actually dead -- and in fact, the body goes off and does something else, like become an accountant), and some people can see them, some can't, but that that's really what ghosts are -- people who aren't actually dead, and not actually having an out-of-body experience in the way we think of that sort of thing, and also that the way these disassociated people get high are sucking on the waves created by old television sets with the old tubes. I got to thinking a great idea for a short story would be this: the only things left from our society after the apocalypse are celebrity memoirs. What would beings from other planet draw based on what they read in those books?

Do zines count? Sure. The kitchen table is where I do most of my reading of zines or comics, I guess because they're less expensive so I'm not as worried about getting food on them. I just got a new tattoo so I've been reading Herbal Healing for Piercings and Tattoos: Organic Aftercare for Everyone
by Anastasia Weedsmith. My most recent tattoo is a left arm sleeve that starts on my index finger and travels up to my elbow, a coiled vine. The outline is done and half the coloring is done. A month from now, after it heals a bit, I will go back to the artist and get the rest of the color. It's mostly shades of green.

Also, I read a lot of magazines at the kitchen table that are previous issues of glossier magazines I get free because they are the previous issue that we've sent the covers back to the distributor for credit when the new issues come in. Certain mags I always take home are Bizarre (not Harper's Bizarre, but as in Bizarre), Fortean Times, Bust, Ready Made, Bitch and a few others. Let me just say if you come in to the store and you buy a grab bag for $2.50, it's possible that some of these items might be in there, and it's a sweet deal.

I've been getting kind of down on myself for not reading enough. But I need to cut myself some slack. It's not like I have a lot of spare moments. I feel like in almost everything I do, I need more time, and I tend to overestimate the amount of things I can get done in a span of time. I shared this with a co-worker and he suggested something that he's started doing, which is pick an average amount of hours per week that you think you can reasonably do, and then instead of actually scheduling it, just make sure that you get that average a week. So let's say you want to spend at least 4 hours a week reading. Maybe in one week, you'll do all of it on Sunday. Maybe the next week you'll do half an hour on Sunday and then 2 hours on Tuesday, and 1 hour on Wednesday, and maybe 2 hours on Saturday -- but then the next week you only get 3 hours in somehow -- and so on, and you'll see that you're averaging about 4 a week, sometimes less, sometimes more, and not all at the same time every day or week. This sounds reasonable to me. Does anybody else have any good ideas on how to get more reading in?

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