Thursday, April 7, 2011

A study of the effects of reading a book a day for a full week.

It was raining heavily on Sunday but my house had been invaded by teenage girls, so I slogged out to the leaky shed in the far corner of my backyard with a water bottle, some cigarettes, a martini, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Sirens of Titan. I planned to spend an hour reading in the relative peace of a thunderstorm and remained four hours til I was finished with my book.  My butt was sore from sitting on a milk crate and my feet were wet from the two-inch puddle that had accumulated while I sat, but I was quite pleased with my afternoon.  Vonnegut always gives me a feeling of mildly pleasant insanity.  It had been some years since I had read an entire book in one day;  I was happy to find that a great story can still force me to consume it in one sitting.

Monday was sunny and warm so I hung up my hammock and grabbed The Sun Also Rises.  I do not recommend following Vonnegut with Hemingway because the colorful absurdity of the former makes the terse style of the latter feel soulless.  I was almost two thirds of the way through the book before I realized that I was enjoying the story, but it is a quick read anyway, so you never feel as if you are burdened with getting through the slow parts to get to the exciting part of the story.

On Tuesday I decided to pick up another short book to see if I wanted to continue this pattern of literary consumption.  I want to say that I've always loved Steinbeck but that is a stupid thing to say.  Several years ago, I had never read Steinbeck and a few years before that, I couldn't even read.  I do believe I might safely posit that I've always enjoyed playing in mud and boobs but that is about as far as I am willing to go right now with my hyperbolic statements.  Cannery Row was fantastic and I couldn't help but decimate it in one sitting.  I started to feel literarily gluttonous and a bit ridiculous, but it wasn't as if I had anything else going on.

After reading three very different authors, each with a unique style, I decided to go in a strange direction and read a book on style.  Strunk and White's Elements of Style is a great little handbook for anybody who desires to communicate with the written word in the English language.  Nevertheless, reading the whole book is a silly endeavor on any given Wednesday.

One might consider Thursday's read as being a cheat on the formula of starting and finishing a book in a day, but I don't know if it is possible to read Moby Dick that quickly.  I had been reading Moby Dick off and on for about a month and decided it was time to be done with the last third of the book.  This was an easy task because this is a wonderful book.  I felt like it ended a bit too abruptly, but I'm sure many others complain that it drags on far too long.

I debated what to pick up on Friday, and after staring at my shelves of unread books for several minutes, settled on Douglas Coupland's Polaroids from the Dead.  Coupland always puts me in a reflective mood that forces me to write, so when I finished the book, I was forced to sit down and write up reviews for the books I had read so far that week.

On Saturday, I woke up from a nightmare into which parts from each book I've read were integrated.  The part that was inspired by Moby Dick was the most disturbing and vivid.  In my dream, a twelve-year-old boy tied up his six-year-old brother, made an incision from armpit to wrist, and then used a water pick to peal the skin back and see what was inside (This reflects the story told by the captain of the Rachel of how he lost his arm the only time he met the white whale.).  The dream was absurd because there were all sorts of organs inside the arm as if the boy had cut open his brother's torso.  The dream was frightening because the older brother was calm and unemotional while the little brother never cried but never ceased screaming in pain.  The EMT s decided not to untie the child even though he was pleading to be released because they were afraid he'd hurt himself.

I decided to pick up The Crying of Lot 49, a strange book by Thomas Pynchon I had once read twenty pages of and then gave up out of confusion, for my Saturday read.  It wasn't nearly as confusing as I had remembered it. 

I hadn't left the house all week and I felt ridiculous and self-destructive.  One of my friends was in town for a visit and called to invite me to a free beer tasting he said he could get me into.  I debated whether or not to go, which is silly because both free beer and friends are rareities in Redding.  I had an absurd goal to complete though, didn't I?  I decided to stay home and finish my book and then reversed my decision, drank free beer, and hung out with friends, leaving my book unfinished until the following day because reading a book a day for a week is a bad idea.


mme. bookling said...


Jealous of your speed.

Kooy To The World said...

I don't think it's the speed that allows me to read so much. Lose your job and have no social life and you too could read like me!