Monday, August 2, 2010

All I Can Do Is Show You The Path

I read for different reasons at different times, and I believe in working to find the right book at the right time. I also believe in not reading a book that doesn’t feel right. If I’m not enjoying a book by page fifty, I put it down and find something else. This doesn’t mean I have to like it; so maybe I should say if I’m not compelled by a book by page fifty I put it down. The Corrections, for example, I hated like I’ve hated no other book, but for some reason I could not stop reading it. I think I enjoyed hating it. I had as much disdain for the writer as I sensed the writer had for his characters.

At any rate. I usually read because I like to; I read to learn; I read to escape; I read for all the reasons we all read. But the reason I read like an addiction is because when I was a kid I read The Chronicles of Narnia or Harriet the Spy or The Boxcar Kids, whichever one came first, and it gave me that feeling (cause all those books gave me that feeling), the one where you get real irritated when you’re reading and someone talks to you, calls you to dinner and won’t let you read at the table, tries to get you to pay attention to something in school. As a grown-up I get that feeling less often, that rush of wanting nothing more than to sit and let a story consume me. I always enjoy reading, but there’s a different kind of urgency I get every so often, a physical pull in my body that makes me need to stay in a story.

That’s one hell of a long lead in to tell you about The Passage. I heard about it at BEA, there was all this hype, and I’m really not into hype. I’m naturally too super cool to buy into whatever you tell me I need to buy into, so I kept looking at it and walking past it and not picking it up and not reading it. This weekend I let myself take a little peek. I read the first page and a half and put it back on the shelf. I walked to the other side of the bookstore and experimented with not thinking about it. It didn’t work. 

We went home together and we’ve been inseparable ever since. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this right now and not reading is because my insane desire for this book is so strong that it’s compelled me to tell you all to go by it, or download it on your silly kindle or whatever. I don’t care how you do it. It’s the right time.

Friday, January 8, 2010

the reading is the book

(I'm reposting this because the book is finally out. Go buy it at your local independent, or if you don't have one, get it here:

Rifling desperately through the galleys at my all-too-part-time bookstore gig, I came upon Nick Flynn’s new memoir, The Ticking is the Bomb.

Ok, I thought, so you can come up with some good titles. (Referencing his first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which I hadn’t read mostly because every other bookseller I worked with at the time had read it. I felt like the market was saturated and I should give my time to something that needed more attention. I never denied that it was a brilliant title.)

Right, so we’ve established the good titles, but the author photo is really bad. Nick Flynn, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you look like a bit of a douche in your author photo. And you’re a poet. And this is your second memoir. Is there really any way, I wonder, that this book is as good as the title? But, my access to fresh galleys is so short at this point I’m like a junkie, shoving all promising titles into my bag until it bulges. In you go.

I go through phases where I don’t read that much, and phases where all I do is read, and right now I’m in an intensive reading period. So I picked up Nick Flynn’s book shortly after bringing it home and opened it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

And wow. Wow. I’m sorry to be writing about this now, because it’s not published until January 2010, and I don’t really want to loan you my copy, because you won’t want to give it back, and I’m not ready to part with it. I read it too damn fast.

You probably want to know what it’s about. I’ve already said that it doesn’t matter what a book is about, but if you have to know, it’s about torture, and fatherhood. It’s about Flynn’s father and it’s about Flynn becoming a father, and it’s about Flynn’s mother’s suicide. It’s about Abu Ghraib and bearing witness. It’s about walking through addiction, about being your addiction, about giving in or not giving in to addiction. It’s about learning how to ask for help and learning how to accept it once you’ve asked. It is beautiful, excruciating, honest writing.

Whatever; I’m telling you, it doesn’t matter what it’s about. What matters is how it makes you feel. The Ticking is the Bomb blew a hole in my stomach, and then filled it, and then ran out before I was ready for it to be gone. Can you get that? Like chain smoking. I wanted to run out and buy Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and read it immediately (more, I need more!), and simultaneously wanted to save it (hoarding is addictive behavior, too). I don’t want to be left with no other books by Nick Flynn to read .

Looks like I’m going to have to start reading poetry. It had to happen eventually.