Monday, April 30, 2007

I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore, Todo...

You might think this is strange, but when I accepted the New Notions 5 reading challenge, it never occurred to me that the challenge would actually be well...a challenge. I spent a very difficult time in the bookstore this afternoon, trying to pick out a book that didn’t make my lip curl with distaste. It was a lot harder than I thought! It started off well-enough with a first stop over into the poetry section because I never read books of poetry. Poetry is wonderful and I understand why it’s a revered form of creative artistry, but I myself tend to prefer prose. I find that I often have the same impatient response to poetry that I have to English opera, which is, to quote one of my favorite comedians Jerry Seinfeld: “You got something to say, say it!”

But this is a challenge, so poetry it is, only…I don’t know the first thing about poetry. Alright, I know the first thing. I know the classics: Lowell, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, etc. But I want to read something new, something fresh. I want to know what’s happening in the poetry world now. So I do what any well-informed, sophisticated reader does: I start pulling books off the shelves based purely on attractive spines. Soon enough, I come across Hoops: Poems by Major Jackson. A quick browse of what’s inside sounds cool and hip enough (and, really, how can you go wrong with a name like Major Jackson?). May pick, down.

Floating on the ease of my first pick, I glide over to the sci-fi section when suddenly reality comes barreling down like a malfunctioning space ship falling from the sky. A quick browse of the wild, unfamiliar titles has me whispering aloud, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Todo.” For a minute, I’m standing in the middle of the aisle trying to remember exactly why I didn’t take John Otter up on his offer of a sci-fi recommendation (I seem to recall thinking, “Oh, it can’t be that hard! I’ll pop in, see something that strikes my fancy and pop back out!). I’ve read sci-fi before. Last year I read, Dune by Frank Herbert, a long time ago I read Tolkein’s The Hobbit, the entire Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, and half of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers before I gave up and decided that I’d rather watch the movies. And, for months, I’ve been in the middle of reading The Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. Dick.

So I’m not completely inexperienced, and there was that time when I was forced to read William Gibson’s Idoru for a class in communications. But peeking into the titles I pull from the shelf has my gut clinching in the same distress I experienced during the week of Idoru. I’m feeling literally repelled by this section of books. Just when did this section get so big? And why are all the books over 700 pages long? If I’m going to challenge myself with some sci-fi, must I be masochistic about it too? But finally, world of wonders, after I’ve decided upon Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, the light bulb goes off! There was this book I heard about months back called The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman...Ding! Why don’t I read that? And it’s located in the young adult section (another section you’ll never find me in) so I get to kill two birds with one stone! June pick, down...

This post has turned out to be entirely too long so I’ve decided to split it into two. Tune in later for the final installment of “I Don't Think We’re in Kansas Anymore Todo…”! Next up: choosing a graphic novel, needing help in the self-help section, and spending too much time in history.


SS said...

Great post! I'm not keen on science fiction either, but I'm thinking of giving it another try with David Anthony Durham's upcoming novel _Acacia_.

Matt said...

You're right about Sci-Fi novels all being lengthy, I don't know what it is about the genre that encourages length. I've heard a lot of good things about The Golden Compass so you should be good there.

I'm looking forward to the second half of your post, especially what you picked for a graphic novel. And I have no idea how you picked a Self-help book, I have no interest in those.

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