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What I’m Reading

April 9, 2008
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Well, somehow I went from the subject of rescue dogs (golden retrievers most specifically) to circus animals like elephants.

Let me explain.

Sunday, I had finished “The Darkest Evening of the Year” by New York Times Bestseller and favourite, Dean Koontz.  Not more than two minutes later, “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen is in my hands, and I’m back in that happy world where I don’t have to worry about my problems and can laugh at somebody else’s, fictional or non.  Mostly fictional.

So far, I’m really enjoying this book, and I’m noticing a couple of similarities between the main character, Mr. Jacob Jankowski, a man who literally does run away and join the circus, and Mr. Paul Edgecomb, from one of my favourite books and movies of all time, Stephen King’sThe Green Mile“.  They both have a wonderful sense of nostalgia to them, “Water for Elephants” remembering the “way back when” days of peep shows only costing 50¢.  50¢ for Gods sakes!!  Hefner would’ve had a field day!  “The Green Mile” reminding us that you only had to crank the phone to get help right away, whereas now you have to dial 911 only to be put on hold.  Press 1 if you’re bleeding from the head, 2 if it’s a heart attack, 3 if your rapist is standing in front of you, or 4 if the house is on fire.  I’m sorry, 0 is not a known number, please stand by for the next operator (your Muzak choice here).

I digress.  Or at least try to.

The great thing about these books, about a lot of books, is the fact it really is the best form of escapism.  Sometimes if you’re not ready for a book, you just put it to the side and get something else.  I started reading “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole a few years back, but wasn’t getting into it, so I moved on to bigger and better (in my opinion) things.  “The Bear Went Over The Mountain” is a great book by “E. T.” original creator, William Kotzwinkle.  Depression had loomed over me like a Dementor hanging over Harry Potter, and his book helped me get out of that funk.

Anyway, back to the newest gem, “Water for Elephants“.  I read it whenever I can, which is pretty much my subway time, and just before I go to sleep.  I’m already getting the sense this is going to be one of those books I won’t want to end.  It has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for a good amount of time.  It’s been out for a while, and I’m only just now getting to pick it up. 

The book list is always growing, and just when I’m able to put a line through one, 5 more must-reads have scribbled themselves all the way at the bottom!  Santa’s list looks like a grocery reminder compared to what I’ve got lined up.  And when someone tries to talk to me while I’m reading, I become part of his “naughty” list!  I don’t know why it’s taken this long to get started.

Next book, more than likely, will be Linda Fairstein’s newest addition to the Alex Cooper saga, “Killer Heat“.  I always love reading her books!  It’s crime fiction meets New York History meets Art History, and she quickly became one of my all-time favourites about 5 years back when I first started reading “The Dead House“.  Can’t go wrong with Ms. Fairstein…just not possible!

Who’s on your book list?

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The Book List

April 1, 2008
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There’s a benefit to living close to a library; saves money from having to buy the books at any myriad of stores with membership cards.  Get a library card and you can get the books for free…what a wonderful world full of self-sabotage!

I’ve just finished Joe Hill’s “20th Century Ghosts”, a compilation of short stories.  It really only had the one ghost story, which had me a little disappointed.  I managed to get over it, though (I’m tough like that) and enjoyed all the stories in this hidden gem of a book.  You may recognize the name Joe Hill by his hit novel “Heart Shaped Box”.  If you don’t know of it, but enjoy horror/ghost stories, this is definitely a must-have!20th Century Ghosts

I’ve now started on Dean Koontz’s “The Darkest Evening of the Year” which has a funny (ha ha) start to it.  But knowing the avenues Mr. Koontz likes to ride, I’m bracing myself for the creepy.  My tastes seem to be going for the scary and supernatural for the past year at least now.  Usually one will spot me on the subway or train with either a John Connolly or a Neil Gaiman book, biding my time until the next Christopher Moore novel comes out (I have it on authority it’s due out later this year, but I will not reveal my source) and then I’ll be flush in another few hundred pages.

There’s something wonderful about these books…rather, there are a lot of things wonderful about these books.  Not just an escape from the cold cruelty of the real world by envisioning their well-written cruel worlds, but also because they let you believe that the absurd is possible, that other worlds can intertwine with ours without doubt or question, and that the underdog could very well be the bad guy you were rooting for through most of the story.

These guys are a perfect example of what it is to create a whole new world where the rules are yours to make up as you go along.  It’s heartening for me as a writer to be able to read these books.  For so long, I was holding myself back from writing what I wanted to because I had put these inane, insane rules on myself of the characters I could write, trying my hardest to make sure they were all likable, unflawed characters (highly unrealistic) for fear if I created a really heartless bastard, I’d get in trouble with someone and my work would never get published.  So many times as a kid, I would hear people on the news talking about burning books (a crime) because of the content.  People burned Harry Potter books because it talked about witchcraft (and the most recent discovery that Albus Dumbledore was gay – I knew it! – had more in an uproar), others wanted to burn classics such as E. B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” because the animals talked.  

These books were classics…CLASSICS!!!!  And the reason they were classics was because their lessons stood the test of time.  A child’s love for her pig, how animals interact with each other and the telepathy or language of some sort they use to communicate.  This was communication from the writers to us, this was them telling us what was on their mind without actually talking to us face to face.  This was education; books teachers were using to utilize better comprehension skills in their charges.  Children got to use their biggest talents, their imaginations, to play with these stories and learn the morals ingrained in the pages.  And people wanted to burn that!

Sorry for the tangent there…went off course a little bit towards the end.  Okay, where was I before the soapbox creeped under me?  Yes, the guys I listed at the top give me hope and a path to follow while laying down a few of my own bricks while going about my way.  if I’m lucky enough to get published this year, I hope I’ll have come up with something you’ll like.

What are you reading these days?  How do you like it so far?  Who’s next after that?


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