Books Magazine

My Mid-Year Crisis

By Bluestalking @Bluestalking

Hemingwaydrink

Probably doesn't need saying that I've gotten far less read this year than I'd hoped. What with all the life events transpiring, the unemployment, the job searching and what-not my reading life has all but ground to a halt.

I've become a very restless reader, starting books and setting them aside. I decided to try Dan Brown's Inferno (I know), which is light and relatively fast-paced. Literary it is not, despite the Dante theme (cough), but it's almost keeping my interest. It's sitting here beside me, the one book that's beside me, which is highly unusual. Indeed.

On my Kindle I've been reading Dubliners, which is brilliant and lovely - as the Irish themselves always are - but it's a collection of short stories that end practically in mid-sentence they're so abrupt. Joyce lets you get to know characters and then pulls the rug out from under them. Hard to really grasp the point but I suppose it's highly literary and that's why it's somewhat confusing. Otherwise, what value could it have? Joyce isn't keen on reader comprehension. As if that needs to be said.

Let the record show: it's not my intention to bash Dubliners, it's just not doing much for my reading slump.

I'm reading mostly for "production," I guess you could say - what I'm reviewing or reading for book groups. I did finish The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It lent itself well to all the starting and stopping, the picking up and putting back down that is my before bedtime reading, all done on my Kindle so my book light doesn't wake HIMSELF.

This book is much like Forrest Gump meets Don Quixote. Explosives expert Allan Karlsson - after blowing up his house and a significant amount of land in the process - is sent to an asylum for a few years, castrated and basically kicked out of Sweden. Talk about harshing your day. So he travels the world, wherever life takes him. And why not? There's nothing tying him down and he's more than able to live by his wits. 

In the process he winds up meeting pretty much every head of state from Stalin to Churchill to Truman, always coming off the genius and always landing on his feet despite the odds stacked against him. Every time you'll think "No way can he get out of this mess..." then, somehow, he does. And it's always a very clever way, always very funny but makes perfect sense. Kind of.

If you've seen the film Being There, it's similar to that. Not that he's unintelligent, or mentally impaired in any way like Chauncey Gardener, not at all. He really does know everything important about explosives and figures out the secret behind the atom bomb, inserting himself into history though others have essentially taken credit for his knowledge. And all because he just follows along, floating with the tide. It's that quality that gives the plot such ease. Like in children's novels, when all the adults are noticeably absent, the main character's left to do as he pleases. If he'd been anchored the story could never have happened.

The plot is two-fold, alternating between Allan's flight from the pursuit of the police - as people tend to die around him, not always through his own fault (but sometimes), they're a bit eager to catch up with him - since he escaped from the old folks' home and his unbelievable past. It's a hilarious book, sometimes slapstick, sometimes more subdued. So many great characters. Really a treasure, if you have time to read it.

Looking at my reading going all the way back to January, I have to marvel what a strong start I had and how suddenly it all ground to a halt. I set my Goodreads goal at 100 books for 2013 and spent the first three or four months of the year ahead of the average, staying on track and then some. Not so now. I don't know if I could catch up even if I wanted to and it's a pretty low priority. Too many more serious issues than meeting an arbitrary reading goal.

2013 is also the year I found BookMooch.com, which should never have been invented, as people like me don't know the word RESTRAINT or PACING. If you don't know the site, basically you list a few books you're willing to trade and you get so many points for each book you enter. Mooching from another person here in the States costs 1 point per book and mooching abroad 3. I've sent off, oh, maybe thirty or forty books and have received almost as many in return. It's gotten totally out of hand, so I'm thinking of going "on vacation" for a bit. You may get the books for free but the POSTAGE! Good god.

Then, the Half Price Books store opened here in town. Oy. Want to guess how happy that made me? And how much more poor. As far as how much they pay you when you sell, it's less than I'd hoped. Am I better off selling there or going through the Amazon program? Considering the pain in the arse involved in packing and shipping I'm not sure my time isn't worth more than the money I'd make through Amazon. Some books would the effort but most not. The penny sellers have crippled that selling outlet. I'm leaning toward going into HPB, bag by bag. And walking out with the equivalent in "new" books, probably.

Probably? DEFINITELY.

Have you been to a HPB? Holy mother. Selection varies by store but in general the calibre is HIGH. For book snobs like myself it's a paradise! All the stuff I'm likely to buy - like the book Kafka wrote abou this father, which is supposed to explain what made him the "eccentric" man he was - are not likely to sell before I scrape together the money to buy them. Most books I have my eye on - for future purchase - are still there when I go back to get them.

I bat clean up for Half Price Books.

And, by the way? There's a HalfPriceBooks.com...

I also found a yummy new blog I want to tell you about: 101 Books: Reading my way through Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Novels. Just found it and I likes it. He just finished Portnoy's Complaint and is gearing up for All the King's Men. Check him out.

Restless and distracted, that sums up my recent reading. I need to hit upon something stunning to get me back on track again, something more diverting than pouting glumly about my life. The answer is a book blog surf away, I have no doubt. It usually is.


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