To check in:
The Walking Dead is still not really doing it for me so far. There’s been some nice things: Shane’s killing Enos was a nasty twist, and I always enjoy Pruitt Taylor Vince, the jolly, fat, shaky-eyed psychopath from Identity; Darryl has been solid all season, so much so I wish they’d go a little farther south, meet up with the gang from Bon Temps, and let Darryl meet Lafayette from True Blood—they could make a spinoff where the two form a supernatural detective agency and discourse about race, gay rights and the dietary advantages of squirrel.
Altogether though, every episode seems to be modeled on the same general flight plan—stay on the farm, look for the girl. I don’t even care about the girl anymore. I don’t really think anyone does. And Hershel, the old veterinarian, is just tiresome. Maybe he’s evil, maybe he’s not; regardless, if I was Darryl I would’ve already put a crossbow bolt through his fat white head just for his halting cadence and folk wisdom. Just kill everyone on the farm and stay on the farm, or get the hell out. It’s hard to admit that I agree most of the time with Shane, because I just don’t like his swarthy looks, but c’mon: shit or get off the pot.
It’s to the point that I ‘m a week behind on my DVR viewing and don’t really care when I get to it. It’s on the same time as Dexter, and Dexter’s better, so…
Work of Art was getting good, then they got rid of Sucklord, and I’m not sure why to watch now. How long can I watch trust-fund bohemian with daddy issues and a over-developed sense of entitlement weep at the camera?
Holy shit—I sound like Sean Hannity talking about the Occupy Movement…
So, tragedy struck today: I had to return 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami to the library before I was done with it. I HATE this. It happens ALL THE TIME. It makes me FUCK WITH THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON.
I do it to myself, of course. I have twenty books out from the public library; I have fifty-seven out from the university library because my standing as a student-teacher supervisor makes me a faculty member and I’m allowed to check books out for a solid year. I’ve yet to read any of them.
My shelves are crammed with books. Probably thousands. I’ve read a fraction of them. Instead of reading, I just get more.
I look at Amazon.com and see what the new books are; if they are mildly interesting I reserve them. If my local library hasn’t purchased them I them check back repeatedly until I’m sure the illiterate bastards in charge of our community education have overlooked them, and then I buy them. I rarely read them because I’m busy reading things that looked interesting two months ago.
So really, I can measure reading by the foot rather than the page, and yet what I find is that I never get to what I want, and I know I won’t, and yet I continue this cycle that only ends in disappointment and frustration. What kind of psychological misfire of a brain am I working with here?
With 1Q84, I knew I wouldn’t finish it. Almost a thousand pages. Tiny, close-set, print. Minimal dialogue. I had it for four weeks and got a late start because I was finishing another book, there was a line of theoretical patrons waiting in a theoretical line behind me, and I would’ve had to average 150 pages a day to get it back fine-free.
No way. But I tried. I was two-thirds through. 600 out of the 925 pages finished. I’ll never know what happened, or I’ll find it years from now, try to remember what I read years before, and finish it then. If I’m lucky.
I read that Theodore Roosevelt averaged two books a day. I’m totally calling bullshit on that. If you’ve read the Edmund Morris biographies, you’d know how busy he was; the guy disappeared into the Wyoming wilderness for months at a time, in a place where frontiersmen would kick your ass just for wearing glasses. No way he sat on his horse with those guys, fucking reading.
“Sorry fellas, I was right in the middle of Cicero or I totally would’ve bagged that elk.”
So subtract the times when he couldn’t read and he would’ve had to read at least four books a day just to keep his average up. I’ll buy that Wilt Chamberlain fucked 10,000 women before I’ll believe that Teddy read four books a day.
I mention this because I read more than anyone I’ve ever met with the possible exception of my mother, and I still don’t read enough. It’s an actual source of stress. I’ve often said that one of the best and worst things about this life is that I will never get to all the books I want to read. It’s a testament to how many great works are available, but it’s mostly just unfair. It sucks. Maybe Roosevelt felt the same way. Maybe he’s just a goddamn liar. I’ve found that most people who’ve said they’ve read something haven’t really read it. It’s at least fifty percent of the time. With my students it’s in the high eighties.
I even became a teacher to support my addiction. I enjoy teaching, but if you hold me down and ask me the real reason I decided to teach for a living I’ll tell you that it is because I get to read, write, and talk about reading and writing for living.
That turned out to be a self-deluding con job, I’ve realized—the same way that videogame designer and beer-taster sound great as careers but aren’t, really. Instead of playing Skyrim or drinking Bass all day, what you’re really doing is trouble-shooting and testing the buggy parts of Skyrim or drinking piss-warm Bass to make sure the mix is right. I don’t really read for my job; instead, I review the same books I’ve taught for ten years and try to get yet another class of kids to like them as much as I did ten years ago, even though I’m sick of them now.
“Yay. To Kill a Mockingbird. Again. Everyone open up and take it all.”
My reading problem, or the symptoms of my reading problem, probably spring from a deeper, more troubling spring. I do consume (or intend to consume) everything this way. I’ve recorded things on my DVR that I will never watch. I have Predators. PREDATORS! When the hell would I watch this? Why? If St. Peter dropped down and blew on his bugle (he’s the one with the bugle right? Trumpet? Cornet? Whatever) and told me that the one thing that would insure my immediate acceptance into heaven was to go downstairs right now and watch Predators, I would be able to find two or three things I would rather do. But I’ll be damned if I’ll erase it.
When I finally lost weight, the only way I found I could do so was to write down everything I ate and count the calories. When I hit 1500, I was done. It might’ve been six-thirty AM.
This is common, I’ve heard; it’s why Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers are the only truly successful weight-loss systems. The difference is that when I decide I am going to eat, to eat and not care, consequences be damned, it is truly breathtaking. It’s one of the first things my mother-in-law mentioned about me to my then-future wife. I think her exact words were “Oh my dear God, I have never seen anything like that before in my life.”
It was at Cracker Barrel.
I can put away 6000 calories in an hour, and that’s with a thirty-minute nap. It’s like a fugue state; I wake to find myself naked, disoriented, covered in a glaze of flop-sweat, powdered sugar, and triumph.
The only solution to this is to just turn off the tap and rip it out of the wall. I can do nothing and I can do all. Moderation is a bitch.
Which brings me back to my consumption of text, whether visual, musical, or print: is there a solution to this conundrum? Is this a common thing? Is this insane need to procure, fetishize, and stress about what I want to read a product of my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or am I fucked up in a completely different way that I am not aware of nor have the words to describe?
I feel like a hoarder. I have hoarder-like tendencies. There might be a homeless guy living behind my stacks of books that I am unaware of because I have hoarded too many books. Maybe the solution is to get rid of all the books. Return them to the library, then start sorting through my own and thinning them out as well. The truth is, if I do buy a book, I won’t read it. I’m too busy trying to hack through all the books I’ve checked out of the library. It’s as if I’m sitting on a Beetle-Bailey-gets-punished-for-insubordination-sized pile of potatoes I need to peel and all I can think to do is see how it feels to stick the peeler up my ass. I have no idea what that means. You see what this is doing to me.
Tomorrow we begin the clean sweep. One book at a time from the library. One book from the shelves downstairs. No more.
On second thought, maybe I’ll do it after this weekend. It looks like the new Steven King book is on reserve right now and I have to get through Far from the Madding Crowd, Ulysses, and War and Peace before I pick it up.
Or maybe I’ll just pick it up tomorrow to see what it looks like. It is Thanksgiving. I should have time to squeeze some reading in.