Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reading Widely is Cool

By Steve Weddle

First, I'm teaching this class on submitting stories to magazines. You're allowed to sign-up now.

Second, fellow Team Decker member Jon McGoran has this cool eco-thriller out this week. DRIFT

Now back to our regular programming, already in progress.


Monday I had to drive a truck across the state and move big heavy manly things because that's the kind of truck-driving, manly guy I am when I'm driving a truck like a truck-driving tough guy that I am all butch and stuff.

So I lathered on some extra hemorrhoid cream and got my lumbar pillow and vitamin water and set off like the strong brute I am.

I don't usually listen to the FM radio, except on special occasions, which this was. The tagline for this one station, the only one that would come in for more than a minute, was "We play anything . . . and lots of it."

What an odd selling point. Can you imagine? One minute you're listening to Fine Young Cannibals and the next it's Lynyrd Skynyrd and then Billy Joel and then The Wallflowers.

("I turned the engine, but the engine wouldn't turn." Howzat? Because, if you turn a thing, then the thing is turned. Maybe you mean that you turned the key in the ignition, but the engine refused to "turn over," as the folks say. A real mechanic person probably can explain this. I'm just a truck-driving man, myself. (Which reminds me of the major problem in Paul Simon's "How Can You Live in the Northeast?" In that song, he sings the following: "We watched the fireworks, until they were fireflies." Now, I think in most places, fireflies come out at dusk. Before dark. That's why you can run around and catch them without impaling yourself on a fence post in the darkness. So I think it probably starts out with fireflies at dusk, then fireworks when it's completely dark. So you watch fireflies until there are fireworks, maybe. Because fireworks tend to be more beautiful in complete darkness. Like pop songs.))

Recently we've been talking on the internet about how YOU YES YOU should read more [people not you]. Which is probably a good idea. I don't think you need to require that you read two women for every man or one minority for every majority or anything like that. I just think it's a good idea to read widely. See, I like living in a world where folks are well rounded. But I don't think it's something that we ought to limit to just the sex or skin color or creed.

I love, love the idea of reading more different various authors.

And I also love the idea of reading more different various types of books.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Sci-Fi and Noir and Cozy and YA and Historical Romance and whatever the hell else you come across. Even this fancy "Literature" stuff the college kids are going on about. And non-fiction. Maritime histories. Bios of Hollywood cab drivers. Deer Hunting with Jesus. Hell, read widely.

I don't do this enough, but I'm usually damn happy and surprised when I come across something I wasn't expecting. Like Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower book. Or Jenny Lawson's Bloggess book. Or Katherine Graham's autobio.

Reading a serial killer series and a mob enforcer and a crooked cop trilogy all together, if each author is a different race/religion/sex/etc-- can be one kind of diversity, sure.

But, like the radio station that will play "anything," it's a limited kind of variety.

The radio station never played anything by Bartok, Cheech & Chong, or Loretta Lynn. It never played a World Series game. It never played a twenty-minute spoken word essay from David Sedaris.

Speaking of music, Rosanne Cash's memoir has gotten good reviews.

I think reading authors who are different than you are is a great plan. So is reading books you don't normally read.

Feel free to post your OUT OF THE NORM reading selections.


sandra seamans said...

I've been reading short stories in every genre I can find for quite a while now and it's amazing how much you can learn from reading in different genres.

At a recent book sale I decided to switch novel genres and discovered how much I enjoy urban fantasy with Carrie Vaughn's werewolf DJ Kitty Norville and Brandon Sanderson's "The Alloy of Law". Sanderson's book is turning out to be a mystery story but I love the fantasy world he's set the mystery in.

Brian said...

Been reading some Urban Fantasy - The Night Watch and Strange Toys. Loved it.

Steve Weddle said...

Urban fantasy is such an interesting genre. The folks who were pushing the steampunk few years back when it was going strong are still up to groovy weirdness.

Dana King said...

I finished Charles Portis's MASTERS OF ATLANTIS over the weekend. It's been a long time since I had that much fun reading a book.

I got tired of books I wanted to read falling through the cracks, so a few months ago I broke down and set up a spread sheet with my TBR pile, in sequence. I use it to be sure at least one of every six books i read are fiction other than crime, and another one is non-fiction. Yes, it's OCD, but it keeps my reading more varied than it had been.

Steve Weddle said...

A spreadsheet? Holy shit. That's serious.

John McFetridge said...

Dana, you could probably turn that spreadsheet into an app...

Last week I took Charles Ardai's advice and picked up Stephen King's JOYLAND and sat under a tree and read it. There's a ghost in it (one reviewer said the ghost was "tossed in" and I thought, yeah, like Keith Richards tosses in riffs) but it's really a coming-of-middle-age story. Sure, the action of the story is coming-of-age in 1973, but the old guy telling it is finally making some sense of it now.