Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Ain't Got Time To Read! *

The limp I am currently exhibiting has nothing to do with my triumphant return to the gym after several years of very enjoyable, though enfattening lethargy. It's because I decided to walk around a town centre for about an hour yesterday morning, trying to find cheap copies of The Orange Box (note to bargain hunting gamers; even cheap copies are not that cheap yet), and then pacing around Waterstone's for ages, even though I wasn't going to buy anything. These are the things I do when I'm very very tired and my judgement is as impaired as that of a drunken businessman with haunted eyes trying with manic urgency to buy magnums of champagne for disinterested ladies even though his bank account is empty and his Ermenegildo Zegna shirt is caked in vomit.

With a new interest in health and the very likely possibility of long job searches ahead of me, my reading time is in danger of being severely cut into, with the result that my to-read list may explode in size if I'm not careful. I'm already just plodding through Naomi Novik's Empire of Ivory (which has already been definitively covered here by Canyon), not because I'm not enjoying it (I am, a lot), but just because I keep wanting to grab every other book from my shelves and read them all at the same time just to reduce the size of that list. It's like a multi-book pile-up in my head. Even before I get to the books I have at home, yesterday I strongly considered getting Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void, John Gray's Black Mass (though it would probably annoy the shit out of me, even taking into account this PWNing by populist philosopher and obviousness-stater A.C. Grayling), Matt Mason's The Pirate's Dilemma, and Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope. Canyon pointed out that I would probably never read it and would just stick it on a shelf somewhere, and I probably would, between my unread copy of My Life by Bill Clinton and my unread copy of this bigass book on Nixon. Nevertheless, it's important to know what he's like, especially now that it seems almost certain it will be him going up against my boys.

Even without buying yet more books (as well as the ones on our Amazon.com list, including Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement and pretty much every book linked by the Worst President Ever tag), my to-read list is already way too big. At the moment I plan to follow Empire of Ivory with Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn, which could well be a total waste of my time, but I wanted to get through it before I play Bioware's Mass Effect, and by "play" I mean "become obsessive about for about a week and then stop playing due to time constraints, and never go back to, just like I did with Jade Empire". After that, another Naomi book, this time The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, yet another book I got as a hardback (as a very much-appreciated Christmas present) and have yet to read even though it is now out as a paperback. The large amount of unread hardbacks on our shelves drives Canyon into fits of apoplexy, and I really can't argue with that.

So, that's two books right there, and that's not counting the dozens of others I have my eye on right now, such as George Crile's Charlie Wilson's War, James Dallesandro's 1906, Greg Bear's Quantico, Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes (another much-appreciated but unread hardback Christmas present that is about to come out in paperback), David Mitchell's Black Swan Green, Patrick O' Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, and the Mass Effect Strategy Guide. Yes yes, this is all a lie. I'll most probably read the large amounts of comics I have filling our spare room. Even ones by Brian Michael Bendis, though hopefully they won't involve semi-naked women being humiliated by supervillains, or pissy, defensive, insulting jokes about the justified criticism just because he knows the blogosphere really are onto something.

Why am I blithering on about this here? Because while reading today's newspapers I found a couple more to add to the pile, and I've not yet bought them, though I really must. Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott, and Dan Atkinson, have written a book on the illusory magic of The Market, called The Gods That Failed. It sounds like a nice companion piece to Thomas Frank's One Market Under God, which I have talked about before, and think is essential reading for everyone, be they right-wing, left-wing, fiscal conservatives, blinkered laissez-faire obsessives, chrometophobic Socialists, Scrooge McDucks, or sentient coins of the realm. The Elliott/Atkinson could be as good. Here are two extracts from the book, if you're curious.

The other book I discovered tonight is Joseph Lanza's Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films, partially because that's an awesome title, but mostly because it sounds very entertaining. Ken Russell discussed it in this column in The Times, and this section definitely appeals to me:
[The] chapter revealing stories behind the scenes on Altered States is nothing short of revelatory - I appreciate the eye-opening account, now that the other side has had its say. It was with the stocky New Yorker and respected novelist Paddy Chayefsky that I had my heavyweight bout. He was the impossible-to-please writer-producer of the sci-fi epic about the effect of mind-bending drugs on a Harvard scientist, Dr Jessup. We sparred from the start, over the high-falutin' hi-sci dialogue, the colour of the set, the luncheon script sessions, the meetings over Sanka (a brand of decaffeinated coffee) and pressed turkey sandwiches, camera angles, tracking shots and over Paddy taking the actors aside for private chats on how to play the scene.

We slugged it out round after round, as Lanza details with quotes from all sides. And it all came to a head when I lost it on the phone and gave Paddy a final tongue-lashing. “Why don't you take your turkey sandwiches and your Sanka and stuff it up your ass and let me get on with the f***ing film!” Now, that's literature.

Awesome. Altered States is one of my all-time favourite movies, and there isn't enough literature on the making of it, so this is automatically an essential purchase. Still, how will I fit all of this in? Life is filled with distractions, both better than reading and far far worse than reading, and they're not going away any time soon. If I was even more misanthropic than I sometimes can be when under large amounts of stress, I could wish for a similar situation to that in Time Enough At Last, but that Rod Serling would probably screw me but good.

Guess I'll just have to clear time by not watching TV instead.

* As the title suggests, this post is dedicated to the memory of Sgt. Blain Cooper, brave soldier and sexual Tyrannosaurus, regrettably killed by a Predator armed with a plasmacaster, whatever the hell that is.

He, and his chawin' tabaccy, shall be missed.

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