What I'm Reading

I read a lot, but I never seem to make any progress in getting through all the books I have waiting for me.

I blame this on comics.

I don't re-read books, mostly because they're such an investment of time that it takes away from discovering new books.  But I do re-read comics.  And that's how they get me.

It's the Netflix quandry.  My wife and I will sit down to watch something on Netflix and, without fail, we decide we don't want to invest the time in a movie, so we'll watch a television show instead.  And then we will watch multiple episodes of said television show, the cumulative time of which surpasses the length of most movies.

That's how it is with me and comics.  The amount of time I spend reading comics -- often comics I know are bad, but just can't resist -- easily equals the time I would invest in books.  So it is that I don't read nearly as many prose books as I should.

An excellent example of my comic book disease is the fact that I recently read the first couple of years worth of comics published by the original Valiant, Malibu's Ultraverse, and Marvel's New Universe.  None of these lines of comics is particularly good by any stretch of the imagination, yet I spent a lot of time reading them.  For some strange reason, I wanted to get a complete picture, so I read every single book in order of publication.  That was particularly hard with the Ultraverse, as they cranked out new titles at an alarming rate.

I'm digressing.  More on those lines of comics in the future.


Anyway, right now I'm making my way through the "Best American Short Stories 2012." I've only made it through the first 9 of 20 and so far "Pilgrim Life" by Taylor Antrim has been my favorite, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander deserves special notice if for nothing else than its ballsy title.

I'm trying to get to the point where reading good short stories inspires me more than enrages me with jealousy.  It's always been about a 50/50 split.  I think I'm making good progress on that front, though.

I'm also about 50 pages into "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" by Carrie Ryan.  I'm not sure how much farther I'll make it.  On one hand, I'm 1/6 of the way through and it didn't take me that long to read the first 50 pages, on the other hand, there are a lot of books out there waiting to be read and I'm not sure I should be allocating any more of my precious reading time to a book I'm not thrilled about after 50 pages.

The problem, for me, is how melodramatic it is.  I understand the situation is dire and there's lots of drama to be had, but the writing style is just too over the top for me.  The beauty of something like "The Hunger Games" is that, right from the start, we get just a tiny bit of contrast.  Katniss has Gale and her sister.  There's a forest outside the district limits where she can go with Gale and, at least for a few hours, feel free.  And when bad things happen, it's horrible, yes, but Katniss is seldom hyperbolic.  We get very few "That was the moment I quit believing in God" moments, when I feel like there have been about a dozen of those in "Forest of Hands and Teeth."

Which isn't to say that it's a bad book, just that it's probably not for me.  Part of that might be my own issues, as I think I used to write in the same first-person-tell-instead-of-show type of hyperbole.  Nicole liked it well enough to read the sequel, though, and she's got pretty good taste in books, so it can't be all bad.

And, of course, I'm reading the synopsis I wrote for "Master of the House."  I read it over and over and over and over and over...


Aside from the aforementioned lines of comics, I've also jumped into Astro City and I can't believe it's taken me this long.  I read the first volume a while back and really enjoyed it, but for some reason never got around to reading more.  I'm remedying that in a hurry.

I think most people assume Astro City is just Kurt Busiek doing stand-ins for Big Two characters, which allows him to tell the types of stories they wouldn't let him.  But that's not the case.  Yes, he's dealing with some superhero archetypes, but the Astro City universe is much, much more than that.  Each issue is character driven with a rich history.  There's a real sense that this world has existed for decades.  It's everything you could ever want from a superhero book.

I'm also currently digging up everything I can find about the Atom, Ray Palmer.  This is because I'm referencing him in a new short story.  The parallels between Palmer and the main character are eerie, given that I wrote an entire short story about this particular character already.  I have never had an interest in the Atom until I randomly decided to use him in a story.

Ray Palmer has a really interesting history.  He was one of the original Silver Age appropriations of a Golden Age name.  He was, of course, a scientist turned superhero.  He was a professor at a small college.  But what made him really interesting to begin with wasn't actually him, it was his girlfriend, Jean Loring.

The first glimpse we get of the dynamic between the two of them is Ray asking her to marry him and Jean saying no.  We then learn that this happens on a regular basis.  Jean's a brand new lawyer and she refuses to settle down until she's made it on her own.  This was in 1961.

Now, sure, the implication is that when Jean gets married, she has to give up her career, but the fact that she's putting her career ahead of getting married is still surprisingly progressive.

Ray and Jean have a lot of twists and turns to their relationship and it ends about as badly as it possibly can, and by "badly" I mean both negatively and horribly portrayed.  But that's comics -- constantly destroying what you love only to bring it back again a few years later.

I'll update this a month from now and we'll see how much progress I've made.