In Which I Read Stuff: Fiction

While I love them, physical books have a few practical issues for me at the moment.

One, it’s trivially out of my way to pick them up at the library. It’s only a few blocks but it has to be either on my way to work (unlikely, since the library doesn’t open until 9, and I leave to take M to school rather before then) or on my way home (which means I can’t use a transfer and take the bus, or which means I add 2km to my bike commute) – both awkward.

Two, I have to physically carry them around. My purse is big but once it’s full of Purse Stuff, lunch, coffee thermos, keys, iPod, etc. there’s not a lot of room for a book. Plus if the subway is crammed — and it always seems to be crammed these days — there’s not a lot of room to wave around a large book.

Three, if I buy them, they don’t go away when they’re finished. I rarely re-read books so more and more I enjoy reading something and then giving it back to the library so it takes up their shelf space, not mine. I know it’s there if I ever need it so the whole library concept seems pretty ideal really.

Four, aside from subway time, I mostly have time to read late in the evening after the dinner/child-putting-to-bed fuss is over, which means I’m tired and have trouble keeping my eyes open.

I haven’t yet committed to an ebook reader / iPhone type of object, so unless I read on my computer (and I sometimes do) my commuting/bedtime salvation is found in audiobooks.

Hurray, audiobooks! An especial hurray for unabridged (abridged books are an abomination) audiobooks read by authors or readers who are good at reading. A huge, monster-size hurray for ones I can borrow from the library. (Granted, borrowing most audiobooks from the library usually means I have to have a Windows computer “read” them to my Mac in real time and re-record them before I can actually listen to them, but whatever.)

So lately, my audiobooks:

Katie MacAlister – lots of fluffy but entertaining quasi-romances about dragons and whatnot. In the first couple months of this year I was working insane hours and wanted pure fluff to distract me as I fell into bed, and this fit that niche to a T.

Neil Gaiman – I had some short stories on my iPod as well as Coraline (kids book) and The Graveyard Book (YA-ish). He reads his own books, and well. They’re very good. I’ve read all his other stuff on paper, as it came out.

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Patrick O’Brian – a wonderful, wonderful friend loaned me the entire 20-volume Aubrey-Maturin series in paper when I was pregnant with M and hopelessly sick and bed-bound. They’re fabulous books. “But I don’t care about 18th-century naval battles and spycraft,” you say. Yes you do. Trust me. Read them. Or get the audiobooks — the first one is read badly, much too slowly and ponderously and with no sense of fun, but the rest are excellent.

As actual physical books:

Ian (M.) Banks – I have a couple of these on my nighttable, waiting to be read. He never disappoints. But they are heavy, and I am tired, and once I read them they’ll be read and I won’t be able to look forward to them anymore. So they’ve sat for a while.

Jasper Fforde – recently I finished pretty much all of his oeuvre by finishing off the last two Thursday Next books (not quite as clever as the first couple in the series), the Nursery Crime books (fun but more ponderous, somehow) as well as Shades of Grey. They’re all well worth a read. I somehow came across Shades of Grey as an audiobook after I’d read it in paper, and I liked it rather more as an audiobook. Not sure why. It was very well read, anyway.

Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. I wasn’t crazy about this one; I think his reach exceeded his grasp somewhat. Great universe, great concepts, but the plot and characters didn’t do much for me. The supposed cleverness overreached the actual content, IMO.

Anyway, there’s a brief overview of my recent fictional explorations.