It’s a Brave New World

May 13, 2008

“I’m aliterate… I choose not to read.”  For many years, this has been my mantra.  Said so often, in jest, but also in truth.  When I was in high school, I loved to read.  Freshman year through Junior, you’d be hard pressed to find me in the halls without some Dungeons & Dragons book in tow.  My Senior year came along and something changed… and for the life of me I can’t tell you what.  The final book in a quintet I had been reading for the past 2 years had finally been released, and I was ambivalent about it.  Yes, I wanted some closure, and yet, it was a labor to go to the store and pick up the book that I had pre-purchased so long ago.  Even more so to read the damn thing.

After choking my way through just to find out how it all ended, I felt let down.  Not by the story, I remember the story ending beautifully, I felt let down because I wasn’t as enthralled by it as I thought I would be.  Between the 4th and 5th books in the series, I had vowed not to get wrapped up in another tale until I could finish this one proper.  Kind of like not cheating on a girlfriend, I didn’t want to dilute what me and this series had.  (It was the Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore if you are curious.) Upon finishing this book, there is one final recreational reading experience I had before sealing off that cave for the next 11 years, and that was The Lost World.

This, I read, as a means of escape from a partial family vacation gone awry to Austin Texas.  The two previous years, my Mom and sister had gone down G.W. way to visit my Mom’s oldest and bestest friend Lynn and always had amazing pictures and tales of the week spent down there.  This year, I wanted to join.

It was upon arrival that I was told that this year, money was a bit tighter all around, and that we would spend most of our time at Lynn’s house.  I’ll spare the details, but I purchased The Lost World before leaving the airport upon hearing this news as I knew I would need something to do.  As I recall, Lynn no longer allowed video games in her house, major bummer for me, or it could just be that her son’s no longer had any interest in them.  For the next week, I read The Lost World, twice, while laying on an inflatable mattress in the vestibule at the top of the stairs which was my living quarters.

Much like before, I had looked forward to this book.  It had been out for some time at this point, I loved Jurassic Park and I wanted to be able to be one of those people who could say, “The book was better than the movie.” for once.  Same as before, I felt let down.  Reading no longer held that same spark for me that it once had.  The words didn’t have that scrolling magnification they once did as I anticipated the next one, it all seemed lifeless, hollow, and boring.  As an act of defiance and to punish The Lost World for having let me down, I left it in Texas to rot in the boredom that it failed to save me from.  I felt betrayed, and wanted the book to feel the same.  I wanted all books to feel the same.  I swore off recreational reading that day, little did I know it would be nearly 12 years until I tried it again.

Fast forward to now, well, a few weeks ago.  I’ve recently had my interest in reading rekindled by someone like never before.  Over all those years, I’ve known hundreds if not thousands of people who love to read, fucking love it.  But they all have the same things to say about any book they’ve ever read.  “It was good.”  “I loved it.”  “I enjoyed it.” etc.  This is all I would ever hear.  Even people trying to have a conversation about books they have read, even books that both have read, you get some basic banter about the book.  They give their yay or nay opinion, they say if it was better or worse than other books by the author, all the while playing this delicate dance to not actually talk about the book.  It’s almost like when 3 people are in a group where 2 people have seen a movie and the 3rd still wants to, so you try to drop hints about things in the movie without ruining it for the 3rd person.  She showed me it can be different.

Knowing full well my stance on reading, she poured out her heart on what reading is to her.  The excitement, the prose, the possibilities.  This girl showed enthusiasm for reading the likes of which I had not seen since I finished the first book of the Cleric Quintet.  She had so much to say and much like everyone else, had a book to suggest I read.  Of course, this book is her favorite book by her favorite author.  That would be it up there… Choke by Chuck Palahniuk.  Sure I think, same as everyone, tell me what I’ll like, but this just sort of sat differently with me.  Sure the major factor in me picking up a book, any book for that matter, was her, so why not trust her judgment in the book to try to bring me back to the world of reading.  So I folded, and ordered the book used on Amazon.com.  FYI, I’m still waiting for that book to show up.  I finally broke down and purchased it from Borders as I had that anticipation I hadn’t felt in so long, I had to get on it as soon as I could.

I had spent the last 11 years wondering why people still clung to this old entertainment medium that was surely dying for the masses but would always be held onto dearly by the die hards.  Interactive entertainment!  The wave of the future!  This was my recreational hobby of choice.  Video games to put it bluntly.  I’ve always defended video games as a certifiable art form, capable of telling stories the likes that books had never seen, all the while putting you in control of the main protagonist.  This, I still believe whole heatedly for sure.

My change in stance is with books at this point.  I just finished reading Choke, and was blown away by it.  I’ve had it for maybe all of 5 days?  I started out reading it on the subway to and from work, maybe on my lunch break if I was eating alone, and any time I was dropping a deuce when at home.  It quickly became an addiction.  I’m letting trains pass on my way to work, just so I can get those extra 3 pages in before I have to get off the train.  Even arriving at my stop, I stand on the platform, eagerly darting between the book and my watch, trying to get to a good pause point or the next chapter before I shove it in my pocket and run up the stairs.  I find myself sitting in the bathroom, my legs going numb on the toilet, without any reason to be in there other than I feel it’s where I should be if I’m reading anything at home.  The living room is for technology; TV, movies, video games, computers, etc.  It didn’t feel like somewhere to read.

Today, this changed.  100 pages to go, give or take, it’s all I can think about.  Victor, Denny, Paige, Ida, Nico, Ursula, what is going on?  My apartment is cold, and I’m curled up on my faux leather love seat with a book, how cliche right?  Page after page I’m racing as the events unfold, the puzzle pieces are coming together and things are clicking in my head.  I’m drawing wild conclusions about what is going on, and it happens…  that magnification thing I mentioned before.  If you are familiar with using a Mac, think of how the launcher bar magnified as you move your mouse from left to right, that is it.  Pure focus on the next word, sometimes even having to go back and reread a few words as I’m skipping ahead in anticipation, to see what is coming up next.

Then… it’s all over.  So suddenly it felt, I’m done.  And for a moment, I’m indifferent, staring at that 3/4 of a blank page, ink bleeding through from the ad on the reverse side.  And I reread the last line again.  This is the 3rd time I’ve read it.  The second being just a moment ago, and the first being several days ago when I first got the book.  Blasphemy you shout!  Nay I say, self ritual.  In my experience, reading the last sentence in a book before reading it gives you something to look forward to, different than looking forward to it after having read the whole thing blindly.  The last sentence in a book never reveals anything, it’s always a final thought, that brings it all together.  It’s a mystery when read first thing, and in a way, you forget it until you get back to it when you finish, and then you recall it.  It puts it all into focus.  The end is the beginning is the beginning is the end.

So I have a favorite book.  I say that rather than I have a new favorite book because I can’t recall the last favorite book I had, even if I have ever had one.  I can’t wait to get my hands on another.  I have a new addiction, maybe somehow this will help me to get over other ones.  Literally and metaphorically, I want to be Denny.  I want to collect rocks.

Kari… thank you for the book, I know you didn’t give it to me, but in a way, you did.



  1. So… what’s your next book? Need suggestions?

  2. I’m lookin’ at another Palahniuk book most likely. Possibly Lullaby or Invisible Monsters. I’ve also had American Psycho recommended by more than a few people.

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