Saturday, September 26, 2015
The last book I read was an 800-page novel about two English magicians in 19th century London. It involved forays into Venice and the Faerie realm and described a fantastical counter-reality in a tone like Jane Austen's:
"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange.
Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question.
"I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never could."
I toted the hardback edition back and forth to my job in San Francisco during the fall of '05 or '06, riding the Transbay bus over the bridge in fog and drizzle. For forty minutes a day, my life was perfect.
I never understood San Francisco, or what I was doing there, or why other people seemed to like it. Riding the bus in every day was a form of mental and spiritual preparation. I read several religious books on suffering, a subject in which I was keenly interested at the time, and enjoyed a great many insights into the nature of reality before I was forced to disembark and, you know, go to work.
These were the most vivid reading experiences of my adult life -- including, too, The Wapshot Chronicle and The Collected Stories of John Cheever -- and always seemed to take place in fall and winter. November was the ideal reading month (overcast, wet, sad for no reason), but January and February, in their existential bleakness, were close runners-up. I must have read books in spring and summer too, but it was not the same.
How many years ago was that? Nine? I'm sure I've read a few books since. But my attention span is shot, thanks to years of kids and the Internet.
When my daughter was a baby, I began reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys and, about fifty pages in, gave up forever. (And now this same daughter, wearing an octopus costume, has plopped down next to me to play Coin Monkey on my phone.)
What have I read lately? That Caitlyn Jenner and Kris Jenner have had a falling out. (Thanks, phone!) Also, using Amazon's "Look Inside!" feature, some recipes from a cookbook of baking sheet meals: entire dinners prepared on one rimmed metal tray. Salmon! Fennel! The works!
I probably should start reading books again.
Maybe just one.
Let's not get crazy.