October 8, 2008 :: On/In the Air

Despite the books on my shelves, I've been kind of a lazy reader lately. When I was a kid, I could plow through a book a week; a book every three or four days, if I were so motivated. I've skipped school to read Stephen King, shooed away summer games of kick the can for Orwell, stole secretly into my mother's stash of books I was "too young to read" and to find The Handmaid's Tale. (Why she was hiding Margaret Atwood from me, with all the feminist ideology and the strong women fighting back between the pages, I'm not sure. I think she thought I might not get the references at twelve. She was wrong.) I have a Bachelor's of English Literature (and 4 straight years of 4-hour Anthology-reading sprees a night under my belt). I don't know, maybe it burnt me out a little, all those years in my parents' backyard on a lawn chair, on couches and in coffee shops pouring over texts looking for hidden meaning, those hours in airports in limbo between shoots and interviews. Reality is, the internet probably did this to me. I've got a single-serve attention span these days with focus just as long as your typical All Things Considered soundbyte. The sad truth? I've read, fully, three whole books this year, and am now scrambling to make time, working on both 100 Years of Solitude and Blood Meridian at once. I felt guilty and a little overwhelmed (why didn't I go with Harry Potter and Dan Brown?). My brain may explode in revolt.

Fortunately, I think I found a nice middle ground this week. A way to satisfy my need for words and my need to be doing something else constructivce (i.e. not sitting) while consuming them. The almighty podcast.

To be honest, I thought those dang things were pretty useless until now. Years ago, pre-iPod revoluion, the ex-mister had a subscription to Audible, which he'd use to listen on the job to science fiction novels while he made pictures move on screen. He may still do that, but I work in words, so other people speaking in my ear while I'm writing them is intolerable. Singing works ok, usually. But not speech. But then, I stopped having a car commute and began a train and walking one, and needed some diversion. Since I listen to music all day, I missed the talking.

Thank you Steve Jobs...problem solved. This week I discovered WNYC's On the Media. And Soundcheck. And RadioLab. And that you can subscribe to This American Life. And TED talks speeches from years past. And nearly anything else that strikes your fancy. I had no idea I'd be so enthralled with having people yammer in my ear. I was actually pretty sure I'd hate it. The interesting, unexpected consequence of this is that I'm now speeding up the actual reading too. 50 pages of Fortress of Solitude last night, uncoerced (Blake's been begging me to read it for a while now). NY Times book reviews this morning. Vonnegut novels on CD for the trip to Indiana this weekend. I'm on a roll. I think I'll listen now.

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