Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reading, indecision and the struggle against reader's block

Words fail me here. I need to kick-start my reading once again.

Of late, a lot of my reading has come to revolve around film and music: technique, theory, critical appreciation, and the like. I also read a lot of articles about enterprise software development, articles about software engineering and code quality, introductory notes on new tools. I wouldn't mind this limited selection, except that I'm still rather inarticulate and inconsistent when I write about my movie viewing and music listening experiences. The less said about potential technical and professional development the better. I couldn't even get to the halfway point with Eli Goldratt's interesting The Goal.

I've never been good about reading non-fiction, so whatever I know about books like The World Is Flat, Freakonomics and Gödel, Escher, Bach comes from friends who've been reading them. This leaves me with my explorations in fiction and these have slimmed to a trickle; and I seem to be the unwilling cause of it all.

Most of my journeys with new fiction over the last several months have ended up sputtering out like Diwali rockets. Here's an example: Salman Rushdie's Shalimar The Clown started off with a lot of the things I like about his writing (puns, references to pop culture, long passages laced with delectable mixes of words), but I also wasn't hitting the groove with each passing page. The due date at the library was just a convenient way to give up trying. I managed a home run with the hilarious Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.

Jessa Crispin has a few suggestions for dealing with reader's block.

Item #1 doesn't apply: If I'm sitting before the boob tube, it's because of a movie, not because of a TV show. If I end up watching Shark, or one of the CSI spin-offs, it's because they're flashy packages of fundae (e.g. pyramid schemes are illegal in the state of New York: now you know how to escape the QnA guys) and people who speak only in punchlines with an egregiously maximal sense of cool.

Item #2 worked wonders for a while. I was hooked on The Sandman (all thanks to Sudarshan) and ravenously devoured issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Frank Miller's legendary work on Daredevil and Batman (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One), a few compilations of Mike Mignola's Hellboy, the first volume of The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist; I couldn't get enough of Powers or The Invisibles, or the few "alternate history" arcs in the Elseworlds universe. I'm not sure why I stopped, but this looks like a promising way to knock down a few hurdles.

Item #3 only guarantees that I will thumb through my Harlan Ellison collection (Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the 2001 edition of The Essential Ellison), or my brittle copy of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man or one of the several early paperbacks from Philip K Dick.

Item #4 won't work. It's a little too romantic for me.

Item #5 is perfect: Cell, despite overtones of The Stand, was a welcome return to horror; And I still have to attack Lisey's Story, The Colorado Kid, and (I am ashamed to say) the entire Dark Tower series.

Item #6 is why this long post was born.

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