The state of my reading is desultory, uncertain, restless … impatient. It’s pick up one book, lay down another, send a tweet into the ether, read another few pages. Hence, why this blog has remained relatively silent, at best, sparsely review-containing. Whether it’s April’s cruelty, especially after a long, hard winter, or the, FINALLY, ability to moon around the garden without being encased in a down-filled coat-duvet, I can’t seem to settle on the luxury of true reading pleasure … an immersive, sustained hours-long read. So, instead of telling you, dear reader, about what I’ve been reading and hinting at whether you should read it too, I’ll write a post about how I’ve failed to read, watch, and listen to, not a meh-review, not a snarky review, but an anti-review.
The attached image, by the way, is one of my Twitter #morningsky pics (if you follow me there, you’ll know all about them): I do love how it blue-gradates. Canadian skies are the best skies. I include it for no other reason than its impression of emptiness and, possibly, the viewer’s inability to figure out what it is. Also, I love it.
Since my fiction reading is romance reading, I’ll start with my DNF. I failed to read Eva Leigh’s Counting On A Countess (London Underground, Book 2). There was nothing perniciously wrong with it, it just didn’t grab me. I thought there was nothing romantic, moving, or interesting about the protagonists and they weren’t appealing together either. I liked the idea of the heroine-as-smuggler-to-save-her-people, really liked it, but it wasn’t enough to keep me reading.
To offset the moue of disappointment elicited by Counting On A Countess, I delved into Sabrina Jeffries’s The Secret Of Flirting. Jeffries is a romance writer I usually like, so I spent a good third of the novel convincing myself of its greatness. And, I should like it better than I do. It has a false-royal, spy hero, compelling plot, with danger and shooting on false princesses in the park … and hot kissing scenes and great banter, and I simply can’t bring myself to read it. I’ve slogged through it over several evenings and … nada. It’s a chore, a reading albatross. I won’t finish it.
To my all attempted romance reading, I can offer only the lame-embarrassed excuse for a break-up, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I like to have a non-fiction book going, as well as my beloved romance reading. I started Peter Frankopan’s ambitious book-mammoth The Silk Roads. It’s great: erudite, sweeping, well-written, focussed, methodical. I appreciate what he’s trying to do, reverse the standard idea of “Western Civ” as the trajectory of history by telling the story from an Eastern perspective. It’s a book that, as a liberal arts student, steeped in “Western civ”, I can learn a lot from. But I’m finding it difficult: I have no context for it. Everything is unfamiliar: the names, the geography. I can’t map his story in my head. I’m not sure where Uzbekistan is … and this is my failure, not Frankopan’s. I really should try harder with it. But I think it’s a cold book, unlike Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, which I also read this year, and found brilliant, provocative, and funny, cynical as all hell, but I loved it. I’ll stick with The Silk Roads, even though, at times, it feels like I’m eating a dry biscuit, nutritious, but thus far unpalatable. I’ll report back on my “silk roads” journey; it’s early days yet.
Other than what I’ve tried and failed to read, I’ve been listening to podcasts, thanks to a long commute. Podcasts, I’ve discovered, soothe the savage road-rage beast in me. I can remain calm, cool, collected, and keep my teeth-grinding hatred for my fellow drivers to a slowly simmering antipathy, as long as I’m intellectually engaged. I’m a news and politics hound, though my own country’s politics bore me to tears. And why listen to Canada’s endless parliamentary debates (honestly, the best Canadian news report is the weather, a source of endless national fascination, obsession, and conversation) when the insanity that reigns in our southern neighbours’ neck of the woods is an infinite source of horror and farce. To keep myself abreast of my American neighbours’ national implosion, I listen to NYT’s The Daily and NPR’s Up First, as well as the NPR Politics podcast (today’s program on Mueller was great). For some hoity-toity British-accented history lessons, I do love the BBC’s “In Our Time”. Frankly, I skipped their show on the proton and The Mabinogion, but loved The Romans and George Eliot. Our very own CBC Ideas is often compelling and brilliant (sometimes, they get too earnestly Canadian and then I skip them). I loved the interview with Yuval Harari, was mesmerized by Paul Kennedy’s conversation with Anne Applebaum, author of Red Famine, a history of Stalin’s starvation of Ukrainian peasantry, and wept through Kennedy’s interview with Yale historian Timothy Snyder. I find Snyder so smart, committed, and profound. I subscribe to about 20 podcasts, so I may decide to write about more of them.
On my Amazon Prime subscription, I’ve got the first six episodes of the first season of That Girl queued. When I was a wee young thing, I watched that show with faithful fixation, convinced I could be “that girl”. Marlo Thomas looked like me, well, a prettier, thinner me, and she lived the life I wanted to choose for myself: independent, ambitious, with a cute boyfriend. I loved that she was never one to put marriage and bambinos at the top of her accomplishment list. I want to see if the show holds up for me. I consider the queue, but don’t watch, not only because moving screens, like TVs, put me into a drooling, head-lolling REM sleep, but because I don’t want it to be less than what I originally thought of it.
This is what I’ve failed to read, read sort of, tried to read, listened to, skipped over, hoped to watch and didn’t, etc. I’ll be back with a post about what I’m reading, watching, or listening to, or failing to.
In the spirit of disclosure, please note I received Eva Leigh’s Counting On A Countess from Avon Books, via Edelweiss+ and Sabrina Jeffries’s The Secret Of Flirting from Simon and Schuster, via Netgalley. I am thoroughly embarrassed I won’t be reviewing them.