reading some books

Today was a minor holiday after my 15 hour binge yesterday in DVD Studio Pro and the joy of sorting ten thousand duplicate emails from my recovered email monster, and writing I’ve lost track of how many grant and funding applications. Everyone wants people to gag for them in March. So in-between the sublimity of cosmetic procedures that constituted my afternoon fun, and my morning spent in a coffee daze with Bonnie, I bought a new book.

I have a problem with reading. If I read at a slow, leisurely pace, interspersed with regularly being overcome by outbursts of insensateness, unfocussed staring at Brownian motion of dust particles, delirium, snacks, and naps, I can gorge myself on a 500 page door-stop in a matter of days. If I put my mind to it, nothing less than 600 pages stands a chance of making it to day two. And if I don’t have a new one to read before I turn out the light, I make do by grazing on the corpses of previous titles.

Which got very expensive in Zürich when I was going through two new books a week plus re-reading the old ones in-between. Cornelia has the detritus of this binge littering her apartment as the combined weight exceeded my luggage allowance; a habit I’ve been repeating here. And with nothing I can be arsed blogging about today, and having had this vague idea in my list-obsessed head for a while, I thought I’d be a bit more deliberate in either heaping praise on, or insulting people who write books.

So in kind of the order I think I read them in, and after raving about him last year, 2006 started off with China Miéville’s first novel King Rat. Then Greg Egan made an appearance in Diaspora, as part of my scheme to read authors that have been mentioned in the acknowledgments or publicity blurbs on the jackets of authors I take a fancy to. Both of these … well, not great but I’d go back for a return fuck.

Those blurbs led me to Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, starting off fine, but trailing off and eventually, I just finished it. Next disappointment was Alastair Reynold’s Pushing Ice, that reminded me how asinine this genre can be when unedited geek-core ideas meet unimaginative prose. And yeah, I read alot of Science-Fiction, and yes I am prone to high geekery and like UNIX (though have been known to get into trouble with sudo a bit too often), but I want the words to make a universe shine in my mind’s eye, I want to see and smell and feel this world, and be lost in it, and be aching to return, and lose sleep over it. I don’t just want to see in my head, words on a page.

Time for a bit of non-fiction, and failing to find any Baudrillard or the latest Zizek in my local McDonalds book emporium, I went for a biography of Ludwig. That’s Wittgenstein, who said “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be quiet”. And though it’s highly rated, Ray Monk in Ludwig Wittgenstein : The Duty of Genius somehow turns the life I remember so vividly as transfixing me in Derek Jarman’s movie into a thigh-deep trudge through a bog. Still reading … only as a last resort.

About this time Paul threw Shantaram at me, and after hacking at it for months, he swore black murder on me if I finished it before the weekend. I went climbing so I finished it on Tuesday. And Gregory David Roberts is by far worth more than half a star over Ray Monk, and this is currently my book of the year and had me in tears and absolutely heartbroken, and it’s a seriously hard book to follow up with anything that won’t just seem wooden and amateur.

And I wanted more, which was why I was in the bookshop today, but there wasn’t and somewhere in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen enough mentions of Cryptonomicon, more Neal Stephenson, and so far, in all its pseudo-historical/factual interweaving narratives of the giants of 20th century maths and science, and very funny computer geek jokes, it’s also on my ‘read this now’ list.