A Good Book

What do you do when you feel like you’ve read them all? That’s kind of how I’m feeling. When I say ‘all,’ I mean books. No, I haven’t read every book there is, but in terms of the authors whose work unswervingly captures me, it looks like I’ve hit the bottom. Now I wait anxiously for one of them, any of them, to send out a new work. I see them advertised on Amazon, sometimes advertised months and months in advance of release, and I wait and wait. Jeez, if the book is ready, why don’t they just put it on the stands? What’s with this waiting for some particular date –or season? C’mon, people. Gimme the juice!

Of course, there are those with the temerity to die as I wait for their next book. You could hear my heart shatter on other planets when Robert B. Parker was forced by demise to stop writing Spenser novels. Or Sunny Randall books. Jesse Stone. Okay, Jesse Stone novels were a little hard on me, what with the man just waaay too in touch with his feminine side –or whatever it was. But even Parker’s chick-flickish books about the Sheriff of Paradise, Massachusetts were well written and engrossing. Now there are two new authors taking up his characters; Brandman with Stone and Akins with Spenser. Supposedly they would continue in Parker’s footsteps but they didn’t. Brandman turned Jesse Stone into ..I dunno what he turned him into. Unreadable I guess is the best adjective here. And Spenser seemed to suddenly lose his wisdom and style. Sigh. Adieu, Bob Parker. I miss you already.

I paw through the books from authors I have yet to read. I find delight in some new ones, only to find, like with Mike Pirogi, that a couple of books was all he could manage before he stopped writing. But he isn’t alone, there are quite a few writers out there that managed to cough up a book or two, only to fade away. What do they say in show business? Leave them wanting more? Okay, but this is taking it too far. Call out the dogs! Chain them to their word processors. Write, damn you. Write!

So much of what gets published these days is appallingly bad. Atrocious. Yet so many seem to have found their way to the NY Times Best Seller list. I wonder if they got there using the Monica Lewinsky method of ascension. What tripe. Authors go on and on and on about what the characters are wearing, what the wallpaper looks like, how many times a character scratches their behind. Yada yada blah, blah, blah. I find myself speed reading, getting from plot morsel to plot morsel like a gourmand loving his steak but finding it mostly gristle. The meat is good, but it is stashed between too many areas that aren’t palatable. And then there are the many writers who just can’t turn a phrase to save their lives. They prattle like a ceaseless old biddy who just can’t shut up about her exciting trip to the supermarket where she found, to her delight, that the store carried food.

It’s expected that someone like me, a fameless hack who simply tries over and over would turn out some barely readable pulp. But I don’t expect to appear on the NY Times best seller list and would consider it high humor if I did. That so many writers manage to get their names on that list, most undeservedly, makes me shake my head in disbelieving despair. I’m a reader more than a writer, and so I can’t say I commend or fault a writer on his or her style, technicalities or grammar. I judge what I read by a very simple criteria: did it take me away from my mundane little life or did I read it with the hopes that someone or something would interrupt me? Often. The number of books I purchased and never finished, tossing them on the reject pile instead for their making me groan painfully, has reached a significant number. I could have bought a new airplane with the money I wasted. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but so is calling a lot of the published crap out there books.

It’s particularly hard on people who, like me, have many hours in the day to fill but are mobility limited in my choices as to how I might fill them. I must lean on books and television as my crutches that help me navigate from waking to sleep. Don’t even get me started on television; absolute crap content made a thousand times worse by injecting as many minutes of bad advertising as program content. Both vying to see which can be more offensively banal and stupid.  I find myself staring in horror at my bill from Comcast, their having the unmitigated gall to charge me almost $300 for a month of access to channels so awful they should be used to abuse the prisoners locked up for pedophilia and other despicable crimes against children. Honey Boo Boo? Really? People watch that show? Why? Is there some irresistible urge to lose brain cells by the billions as a means of entertainment? Reality shows that I hope to God aren’t really reality at all, but an inviting beacon to a heretofore hidden but entirely giant social segment of masochists? Has man (and woman) kind really begun a march back to the primordial sludge, returning ourselves to single celled animals and divesting ourselves of brain cells first? What’s happening here? Did mediocrity really become the most highly sought prize out there? Come to think of it, the political campaigns do seem to reinforce that idea. So many seemingly accepting Weird Al Yankovitch’s challenge to Dare To Be Stupid.

I try to use the Internet to find things worth reading about, learning from, being educated or at least entertained. But I have to sort through the mass of the universe of banality and misinformation, disinformation and bald faced lies, just for the occasional taste or glimpse of something worthwhile. I know that television and books used to be better –in the good old days. But as I reread them, so many turn out so lackluster and I realize that my tastes have become more (perhaps) sophisticated or something. One time vehicles that proved the adage that a book is like a ship, sailing lands away, have turned out upon revisitng them to be a lot like the Google Earth representation of former stomping grounds. They are now so vastly different from my perspectives of that time so long ago. They have elements of familiarity, while at the same time being so alien as to assume the qualities of pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, except the new representations don’t really look like those familiar old places at all anymore. It makes me wonder if there were any good old days at all, that perhaps the old times were just as pathetically lame as current times only I was not enough matured to detect it. Perhaps, as I suspect of much of my fellow humans, my IQ has dropped into negative numbers and, like them, I’m simply too stupid to see it.

I don’t know what to make of it all. But it causes me to think of the elderly I experienced as a young lad, listening to them claim disorientation and displacement; the music is too loud, the people dress too peculiarly, and I don’t get the jokes told by the new crop of young comedians. Maybe it’s just a feature of nature, causing the sunsetting generation to let go of the world, snarling “take the world, I don’t want it anymore!” as some kind of preparationfor our own passing into posterity.  Our finding it a favor to be relased of the mortal coil at the precise moment it becomes just too unbearable to be disappointed or alienated one more time. The hair that broke the camel’s back.

But no, I really don’t think it’s me. I think that our standards, our desire for truth, our desire for sensibility are on a downhill slide. Fiction is no longer a category of developing written or digital content. It is what we are either too tolerant of, or too lost to begin to know how to deal with it all. I have, I suppose, asked for too much for these modern times. Wanting to find a good book within the many that will be compelling, educational, entertaining and thought provoking is just becoming too great a task.