Have you ever read a book and then re-read it at a later date and it suddenly made a lot more sense and/or had much more of a deep emotional resonance with you? I've always been really interested in reading, and when I was younger I would sometimes read an entire book in a single day if the weather was particularly bad outside or I was stuck in the car during a travelling day while on a long driving vacation (I'm fortunate to not get car-sickness while reading in a moving vehicle). This latter fact sometimes frustrated my mother, who would sometimes joke with me that I was missing an entire state while reading, but I usually just shrugged it off and continued with whatever I was reading. At any rate, I went through phases with my reading, but I found myself reading nearly exclusively fiction when I was a kid. I grew up on The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe books and soon went into reading Stephen King. Oddly enough, I've ready something like 15 or more of his books, which isn't something I'm really proud of.
At any rate, in high-school I finally started reading what most people consider "classics" and really actually enjoyed them. I was assigned short stories by Steinbeck and Hemingway and even read a touch of Shakespeare and other authors. One year (I think it was my junior year, I'm not sure), I was assigned an actual book report, and I asked my teacher that I really liked to recommend a book that he thought I would really enjoy for the report. He recommended 1984 and I plowed through it and at the time thought it was something of a breakthough in terms of what I'd ever read. Given my reading history, I'd never read something quite so cynical and stark, yet I loved parts of the book and the style that it was written in (including the whole idea of newspeak). Even though I felt like it was sort of an enlightening book, I found myself devoting less time to enjoyment reading during my final year of high school and especially through college.
Once I was out of college, I got back into reading for pleasure again in a big way and made it a goal to catch up on a lot of the books that I'd never read, but felt like I should have. In my first year out of college, I read the complete short stories of Hemingway, the complete short stories of Flannery O'Connor (who is still probably my favorite author), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Camus (The Stranger, The Fall, The Rebel), Vonnegut Jr. (Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast Of Champions), Salinger (Catcher In The Rye, Franny And Zooey), Kafka (The Trial, Complete Short Stories), Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), Heinlein (Stranger In A Strange Land) and some others. I'm still catching up on reading stuff that are widely considered "classics" by most, but I'm totally getting off point.
Going back to the very first statement I made, this last week I picked up 1984 again and re-read it. It was sitting on the shelf and I needed a book in a hurry for the commute read and when I was only two pages in I knew it was the perfect fit. I'm not sure if it's because I have read so many more books and have (hopefully) become more knowledgeable since I read it last or whether the world has changed more, but for some reason it seemed even more poignant and fitting than it did when I read it in high school. There were things in the text that I picked up on that I don't remember reading the first time around and although I'm by no means a doom and gloom sort of person, some of the parallels between the book and real life are eerie and even a bit frightening (if you really want to draw comparisons). Regardless, it was a great read, and if you haven't read it yourself in some time, I'd recommend checking it out once again.
The last week was a blur for many reasons. One of which is that every single night in the past week has been packed with activities of some sort or another. My younger brother and his wife recently got an acreage outside of town that needs some cosmetic work, so I spent a couple nights last week helping paint the ceiling of a large room and texture the ceiling of a large room. The house is really, really cool, and due to a lot of help from a lot of people during the past month, it has come a long ways. Of course, this is all in addition to having a new baby as well. Crazy kids...
Other nights last week were spent reading, working a bit on music, writing some reviews for the website, keeping things watered, and cooking up a couple batches of good food among other things. This weekend, my friend (and former roomate from college) Mouser swung through town and we tossed a couple games of bowling, interestingly enough averaging nearly the exact same pin count for the two games and ate a healthly load of tasty Indian food. We also shot the shit about the old times and the new times and it was good to see him again (last time was at TG and my wedding just over a year ago).
Last week, I also finished my 20th book of the year so far, and with that managed to get my reading total for the year up to my second-highest total since I started keeping track in 1998 (with a solid 5.5 months left to go still this year). At the suggestion of several people, I decided to read Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris for my commute book. After plowing through the batch of short (non-fiction) stories, I have to say that I'm not quite sure why Sedaris is loved by so many. There were a couple stories that I chuckled at a bit, but a majority of the pieces seemed like they either went nowhere or offered insight that was trying to be deep but simply felt rather plain. Many people will probably nag me for feeling this way, but I really doubt that I'm going to read anything else by him unless I am conned into it. The humor just wasn't my style or something, and perhaps it's something that runs in the family (I saw a couple episodes of his sister's starring show Strangers With Candy and thought they were completely unfunny as well).
As an aside, I made some soup tonight that consisted nearly completely of ingredients out of either my mothers or our garden. It was a 16-bean soup with fresh tomatoes, garlic, shard, and onions (and some spices) and everthing but the beans were grown by our hands. I'm not sure if that made it taste better, but I'd like to think so.
This weekend was hot. The average high temperature for both days was something like 96 or 97 and the heat index reached 100 on both. Although I managed to fit in a few outside activities and some family events, I spent medium sized chunks of my day just sitting down and reading while sitting in the air conditioned house (while trying to not feel guilty as TG worked outside in the backyard, taking breaks often to rehydrate). I hadn't just sat around and devoted hours to reading for some time, and it was a nice little change of pace, having gotten ahead on a few of the things I continually work on.
I started My Friend Leonard by James Frey and finished it as well. I'd read his A Million Little Pieces almost a year ago exactly and found it to be a quick, highly entertaining read that flew off the pages. The newest book by Frey is written in a similar style, in that it reads more like free-flow prose that rolls thoughts, actual statements, and emotions together into an expressive, fast-paced read. Despite a couple tense moments, the book overall doesn't have quite the amount of high drama that his last book did. The last was more focused on the tumultuous times of him trying to kick drugs and alcohol, and this one finds him serving his short jail sentence and trying to make some sense of his life after he gets out into the real world. Again, it was a really enjoyable read from Frey, and here's hoping he has a few more books in his system (although at this point, he seems to be pretty much caught up in terms of spilling his life). One thing that would have made My Friend Leonard even more enjoyable is if I hadn't read the end of his previous book (the epilogue anyway, that told what happened to everyone he met at the treatment center after they left). It didn't make the book any less powerful, but it would have been even more of a kick in the gut if I hadn't known what I did. So, if you're interested in reading his work, you should read the two books back-to-back, and skip the epilogue in the first book if you really want a rollercoaster ride of reading.
When I added the aforementioned book to my list for the year, I noticed some interesting numbers. The first was that I've finished 19 books already this year, and the second was that I've read over 5000 pages already. To put that in perspective, I've only read more pages than that two different years in the past 8 (since I started keeping track in 1998), and once I finish 300 more pages it will be my second-highest total since I started keeping track. More than any time in the past, I think I've found ways this year to squeeze more reading into my life, and it feels pretty good. I think it will be a long time yet before I'm able to match my mega-totals from 1998 (when I read 54 books for a total of almost 14000 pages), but I've read a lot of great stuff this year with really only one stinker and I have a huge stack of things that I still want to get through.
Managed to fit in some more time for reading today, and finished up my second book of the break, which was Hope Dies Last by Studs Terkel. It was just earlier this year that I finished my first book by Terkel, and I was instantly hooked on his verbal history collections. Hope Dies Last is his most recent effort (completed when he was 95 years old) and like his others has a slight bend to the left but is equally outstanding. Subtitled "Keeping The Faith In Uncertain Times," the book doesn't deal with faith in a particularly overt religious way (although several people in the book bring their religion into the discussion), nor does it deal with a more specific idea as a majority of his past books have (Working, Race, World War 2). Instead, this most recent collection deals more with hope in general and what people believe in to keep themselves going through life. The book was written after 9/11 and references that event several different times, yet always touches on it meaningfully.
Just as with his other two books I've read (Working, Will The Circle Be Unbroken?), Hope Dies Last is touching and heartfelt, yet funny in other places. At some point during the reading of the book, I decided that I would make it a goal of mine to read everything that Terkel has written (which is a lot, I know) at some point in the next couple years, just because I enjoy his work so much. I have a couple more of his books (Race, The Good War) sitting on my shelf just waiting to be absorbed, but I think I'm going to mix things up once again with a fiction title before delving back into one of them.
I did so well there for a couple entries last month. I made posts that were a little more thought out and had some development, then I go and stumble and again I find myself having not written anything significant (really) in well over a week. There are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything that I'd really like to get accomplished. Can someone please invent a pill that allows for one hour of sleep a night that will also make sure that the body and mind is fully rejuvinated? Thank you in advance.
That said, the past couple days have been really nice. I'm currently in the midst of a three day weekend, and although it's on the backend of said weekend, I feel like I've gotten a lot accomplished and yet managed to fit in a little relaxing time as well. Our two dogs are of completely different mindsets in regards to the fireworks, and it makes for a frustrating time. Elsa (perhaps due to her near-death experience and subsequent fear-nothing attitude) doesn't mind the fireworks very much at all and will go outside with the normal prompts. Zoey, however, has some sort of traumatic memory associated with the fireworks (perhaps due to her being only about 10 weeks old (we'd gotten her only a couple weeks before) for her first 4th of July). At any rate, Zoey has been really stressed out the past couple of days and will probably continue to be for the next couple as well. We got her some dog valium from the vet, but it doesn't seem to do a whole lot really.
Like I mentioned in my last entry, I was most of the way through a couple books, and I finished the first one of them. I was introduced to the writing of Sartre back when I was in college (during a philosophy class that focused on existentialism) and then a year or so after graduating found myself going through another phase where I read a lot of his work (probably about 3 to 5 books). For my last commute-book, I picked up Intimacy from the bookshelf and was at first a little frustrated by his less-than-light writing style but soon found myself completely wrapped up in it. The past couple weeks, I had definitely been used to reading lighter fair, yet diving into Sartre again made me realize just what an astounding writer he really was. He is truly the master of writing about the dark side of the human psyche and of despair in general. It was definitely a come-down to read his work after some of the lighter fair that I had been plying myself with, but after delving into his work again for the first time in several years, I feel like I might have to dive into some of his work again soon.