Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'tude tuesday: on reading time (or the lack thereof)

So, I have running lists of books that have been recommended to me. I have lists on paper, lists on the computer and lists in my head. The problem is, I’ve turned into the polar opposite of an Evelyn Wood Speed Reading School Graduate (which would be…what exactly? Hopefully, you get my drift).

I don’t know if I’ve actually started to read more slowly or if the time I am able to devote to reading has just diminished dramatically due to life’s relentless schedule. I do know that the ratio of waiting list books to books I’ve actually read has increased a gazillion-fold in recent years. So, maybe I’ll have to name a Year of Reading Dangerously come some future New Year’s Eve.

Anyway, while full of attitude yesterday about all the authors I’ve been hoping to read but haven’t (Kate Morton, Bill Bryson, Jhumpa Lahiri, etc., etc., etc.) I found myself in two bookstores. The first was Bookman’s, a longtime Flagstaff institution and gathering spot, where you can trade your old books for new/used ones and find some real treasures along the way. One evening back in the early nineties I was hanging out in the poetry section when a guy asked me if I knew where they kept Robert Graves’ books. I didn’t know, but I wish I had. Maybe that way I could have given Michael Stipe of R.E.M. a little tour of the store and then the town while we hung out and discussed our views on life. I could have asked him about his inspiration for Fall on Me (my favorite R.E.M. song of all time – and his, too, according to this old Unplugged recording), and I could have told him that the first boy I ever really kissed had a big R.E.M. poster on his bedroom wall. Of course, once I realized who the guy in Bookman’s was, I got all tongue tied instead (which was probably just as well), and there went my fifteen-second brush with fame. The next day it was all over the local grapevine that he’d been in town.

My next stop was the local B&N where I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I did, however, find a really cheap hardback copy of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which has been on my list ever since it came out and started that whole debate in the writing community about author photos and whether or not it's easier to get published/marketed if you're drop-dead gorgeous - especially if you've just graduated from pre-school when your debut novel comes out.

Before I dive into the Pessl novel, though, I need to finish Messud’s book. I’m in the home stretch and still, for the life of me, can’t figure out how this became a National Bestseller. Maybe you have to be a New Yorker to get it. Then, I plan to read Tammy’s Two Rivers. So, maybe Calamity Physics will have to wait just a bit. I mean, how long can it take me to finish one book and then read another? I figure I’ll easily be cracking open my new find by the time grandkids arrive.


  1. Maybe too much schooling in your salad days, or possibly just a ketchup deficiency. That will be 5 cents please.

  2. Nicole - thanks so much for sharing the story about Michael Stipe in Bookmans Flagstaff! Made our morning here at Bookmans HQ.

    - H.

  3. Thanks, Lucy - er, Ken. Glad to know the Doctor is In. Not sure it's totally ethical for a physician to be shilling for the Ketchup Advisory Board on the side, though.

  4. Happy to oblige, heathercee. It was a neat experience. I just wish I'd had my wits a bit more solidly wired at the time.