So, it’s been a rough run into 2011, general malaise and tiredness has overtaken me at various points, but I am totally working on it.
On the other hand, I got an Amazon Kindle for Christ Mass. This kicked off my intended return to regular reading with some aplomb. First I read Stewart Lee’s book How I Escaped My Certain Fate, and Stephen King’s Gunslinger, probably a strange choice as an introduction to Stephen King’s massive oeuvre. I loved them both, finishing the former by new year, and the latter by the end of the following week. It was especially gratifying, because I didn’t go out of my way to dedicate lots of time reading – it just occupied a lot of otherwise dead time I would otherwise spend “loafing”.
Stewart Lee’s book is constructed around transcripts of three of his stand-up shows, all of which I have seen, but Lee has footnoted the text into oblivion. The result is that most of the jokes are explained – their origins, his intentions, as well as their relation to the over-arching structure of the show. I don’t think there’s any comedian out there right now who really connects with my own sense of humour than Stewart Lee, and it’s nice to read these asides, as well as the bridging biographical sections. There’s always the risk a book like this will destroy the “magic” of the performance, but in this case the opposite seems to be true, because he already pretty much reveals the architecture of his shows as they progress. Also, it’s quietly touching to read about his return to stand-up after several difficult years.
As for the The Gunslinger, which most people know is the first book of The Dark Tower series – I had somewhat joked that the first thing I would do with my Kindle was read The Dark Tower. I never really intended to do such a thing, because the shocking paucity of my reading in recent years makes me feel like I am not prepared, or perhaps not entitled to jump into a work of such apparent textural complexity. I realised I’d need to pace myself. Anyway, I did read The Gunslinger, the revised edition, and was pretty much enthralled. The whole notion of the world King built – this empty wasteland that is somewhat ambiguously connected to different worlds and different times – was intoxicating. What perhaps struck me as odd is how incredibly simple the story is. The titular anti-hero pursues the evil Man in Black across a desert. He meets other people on his journey, but mostly it’s about his cold dogged determination to catch this guy.
Then after finishing The Gunslinger, I figured while I was in a King mood, I should get another one under my belt – but not more of The Dark Tower. That can wait – should wait even – until I’ve gotten into a comfortable reading habit, and maybe absorbed more of the context required to really make sense of it. So I decided to tackle one of King’s other epics, The Stand, which probably is biting off more than I can chew, but as of today I’m 20% of the way into it, and already more pages than Gunslinger. It’s a completely different kettle of fish – so many gods-damned characters and stories running in parallel, but all ploughing in the same direction. Any one of these characters could be their own book. It’s too early to tell, but it seems like they’re all going to come together. Where it goes after that I have only the vaguest idea, but I’m excited to find out. Easy to see the parallels with Lost, and where a lot of that show’s story-telling ideas come from.
It’s nice to have a “job” (by which I mean mandatory work placement) where you can sit and read a couple chapters a day in between actual work. Plus, it’s nice to go up to a specific Glasgow Starbucks for a large Signature Hot Chocolate and a couple hours reading.
I’m sure my pace will slow and level out over time, but even if I get in fifteen novels in the space of a year, I’ll have read more than I’ve read in the previous five years combined. So thanks, Kindle.