Saturday, May 5, 2007

I should read less

No, seriously. It may sound blasphemous for a librarian to say such a thing, but look at this - these are the books I read during the month of April:

How to be Good by Nick Hornby
Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage
Jesus Land: a memoir by Julie Scheeres
Housekeeping vs the Dirt by Nick Hornby
Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
Confessions of a Tax Collector by Richard Yancey
A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Count them - eight books! I'll confess that a few of them were very short and most were quick reads, but surely this cannot be healthy. And I didn't even include the few books started and abandoned, and the graphic novel I read and didn't understand (The City: a vision in woodcuts by Frans Masereel which contains no text whatsoever, and which two of my co-workers exclaimed was "brilliant" leaving me to nod with a knowing look as if I had any idea what the book was even about, much less how good it was.) It was all such a blur that I had to consult my library record to see what I had checked out in order to compile the above list.

At the end of the month, after finishing The Road (which I read because it won the Pulitzer for fiction, not because Oprah told me to) my outlook was so bleak that I couldn't find anything else I wanted to read. Why bother? The world is ending and all I have is this shopping cart and hungry cannibals waiting for an opportunity to sneak up on me and help themselves. You would understand if you read the book. Anyhow, in the past week I've managed to get more done than I did in the entire month of April. I set up this blog, finally found a way to listen to the library's eAudiobooks on my ipod, and made a great deal of progress on the sweater I've been working on since back when it was actually cold enough to wear it. I even spent some time with my new pets. It's like a whole new book-free world has opened up for me! I may just start playing video games soon, or finally learn to rollerblade properly.

But I don't want to dismiss these books as a waste of my time because some of them were quite good. In particular, Firmin was one of the best books I've read in quite a while. The title character is a rat who lives in a bookshop in Boston's Scollay Square leading up to its demolition, and finds himself isolated from his fellow rats by his ability to read and his resulting love of literature. He turns to humans for companionship and after some disastrous attempts at friendship, befriends a failed science fiction writer and they live together happily, at least for a while. At the end of his life Firmin reflects on what a great life it was, which made me incredibly sad. I suppose it was great for a rat, filled with more than most rats get to experience, but it was such a small life of loneliness, isolation, and an inability to communicate with the only beings who would be able to understand him, if only they spoke the same language. The story is beautifully written and if I had a copy in front of me I'd share a few quotes, but unfortunately you'll have to settle for my commentary. Or read it youself. It's only 162 pages, so you have no excuse not to.


Anonymous said...

Even too much of a good thing is bad. Here are my four tests for if I've been reading too much (and it will help to understand that I usually read lying down on the couch):

1) When I try to stand up, do my knees buckle from long disuse?

2) Is any part of me sticking to the furniture?

3) Have I skipped any meals?

4) Are my wrists sore?(this usually happens holding up hardcover books of 1,000 pages or more lying down)

Anonymous said...

Please don't tell me that reading eight books in a month is not healthy! I have lost track of my April reading, but there was one week I went through 7 library books, and I've been back a few times since then :)


ZantiMissKnit said...

Firman!!! I've *got* to read that. I think I'll see if the BPL has it. . .