Friday, February 20, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different

Am I the only one who suffers from post-libris depression?  (And if you're a Latin scholar and I just committed some grave grammatical error please keep it to yourself.  Studying Latin is on the to-do list.  I should get to it by the time I'm 67 or so.)  A let-down after the completion of a really great book.  A feeling of loss, wishing you could travel back to an earlier time when you hadn't actually read said book so that you could start it all over again.  Feeling restless and lost, your mind frantically repeating the question over and over again, "But, but...but what shall I read?!?"

For me I find it better if I make an immediate shift to another genre.  Just as with the obsessive compulsive marathoning of television shows that sometimes takes place in my house late at night, you can't go from numerous episodes of Downton Abbey (is anyone else finding this season a bit disappointing?) into, say, a binge on North and South or some other historical British drama.  Each muddies the waters of the other and cheapens the experience of both.  I have to go from Downton to Dr. Who or The Walking Dead or American Horror Story or something similarly dissimilar.  

So here I was, awash in a sea of indecision, overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles available to me through that wicked, brilliant giant of a virtual establishment which is Amazon, when two events occurred which relieved me of my misery.  The first was that Toot started puking.  A lot.  And it's hard to maintain a bookish funk when one is cleaning up an endless stream of toddler vomit.  He of course shared his misery with his brothers and sister so this first puke was not the last puke. Thing Two summed up the hell my life has become this past week in the following conversation:

T2:  Mom, I smell throw up.
Mom: (wearily)  Where?
T2:  (eyes widening)  Everywhere.

But this development was accompanied by another, happier, turn as well.  My lovely sister e-gifted me a book on my new Kindle (which I now shall refer to as My Precious... because that's what I call it).  I'm pretty sure she was wearing a white hat and surrounded by a heavenly aura when she committed this act of charity.  Of course, I have no idea what she was actually wearing since everyone in their right mind is staying as far away from our House of Barf as possible.  I've tried to make it visitor friendly.  There's plastic sheeting outside and haz mat suits at the door.  It looks a lot like that scene from E.T. that traumatized us all as children.  But I've still had no takers.  And since my husband was out of town for work until this very evening, I have had no human companionship over the age of seven in several, several days.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

I'm kidding.  Sort of.  The thing that has kept me from going all Overlook Hotel on everyone has been My Precious and the delightful, change-of-pace cargo it now carries.  So as my household makes the subtle and seemingly inevitable shift from tummy complaints to what Thing One refers to as "the coughs," insuring me another round of sleepless nights, I make the much less subtle but much more enjoyable shift from sci-fi/fantasy to a mystery/crime novel and lose myself between the virtual pages of another fabulous book.          

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ready Player One

Oh, let's just start out with a bang shall we, friends? I just finished Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. This futuristic thriller is set in a dystopian America circa 2044. Life is bleak and the future bleaker but the denizens of this world escape regularly into the OASIS, a fully immersive virtual reality. Five years prior to our story's beginning, the simulation's co-creator, '80's pop culture obsessed multi-billionaire Jim Halliday, has died, leaving his vast fortune to the lucky citizen who successfully completes a quest he has programmed into the game. Our protagonist, Wade, through his avatar Parzival,  is one of millions of "gunters," gamers dedicated to the hunt for Halliday's "egg" and the first to have any success in discovering its location.  His elation at his discovery is short-lived, however, as he finds himself a fugitive in both realities, fighting now not only for the prize, but for his life.

Okay, honestly, Mr. Cline you had me at hello.  The title of this thing, Ready Player One, made my heart skip a beat, as it would any self-respecting gamer who ever put a quarter on the edge of a coin-operated arcade game in the well-respected ritual that said, wordlessly, "got next."  And what follows the title doesn't disappoint.  The entire novel is an ode, the sweetest love song ever written, to 1980's geek culture.  If you still remember with misty fondness your first Dungeons and Dragons character, if words like "Zork" make you pee in your pants a little bit, if your thumbs cramp at the very mention of the word "Joust" as you instinctively flap the wings of your ostrich, this book is for you.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, we can't be friends.

I'm kidding, of course.  I still love you even if you never played Pong.  And actually you will still absolutely love this book.  Cline does a fantastic job explaining the games, movies, albums, spaceships and other various trappings of geekdom for those who missed out on the wonderful, glorious '80s (or who were there but never played Pac-Man; but, to be real, is there anyone who didn't play Pac-Man?) and his story behind the nostalgia is a-maz-ing.  Heart in your throat, "don't-go-in-there!" suspense, tantalizing riddles to be puzzled through, engaging characters, humor and charm.  This book has it all.  And his world-building is so exquisite that at the book's end you emerge as one of his characters must after hours spent in the OASIS -- lost in another world and forced to take a long, slow-blinking moment to adjust to your own.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

...And Immediately Stalls

It occurs to me that in order for one to successfully write a book blog one must in theory at least read a book.  To completion.  More than once a year.

Many things are getting in the way of this endeavor.  There's the usual.  You know, educating the children.  Nursing the infant.  Life with a toddler who today removed and lobbed his dirty diaper at my head from his playpen/timeout...because he was out of things to throw.  Paltry excuses, I know, and I shouldn't even mention them since they aren't actually the most prohibitive to my foiled attempts at reading.  No, the reason I really find it hard to read these days is that said toddler is a bookavore.

By bookavore, I do not mean that he so loves to read that he has figuratively digested every single volume of his extensive Eric Carle collection.  Though to be fair to the little fella, he probably does know Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by heart now (I know I do).  I have seen the term used to described people who consume books in this manner.  No, I mean literally.  He eats books.  Like a devious little goat.  My paperback copy of Donna Tartt's The Secret History survived over a decade of attic storage only to be gnawed around the edges in the comfort and relatively safety of my hopefully rodent-less living room.  I've told people not to loan me books, not because I don't want to read them (I do) or I won't find the time (a 60/40 chance), but because I'm afraid my kid will eat them.  There, I've said it.  Envy me.

So the natural solution to this problem is obvious.  E-books!  Wonderful, lovely e-books!  Have smartphone, will travel.  And I do.  But I hadn't upgraded to a tablet or big screened mega-phone yet so frankly my eyes start to hurt.  That and I find myself in a fairly constant game of tug-of-war over whether I'm going to read on it or the above-mentioned tot is going to talk to Siri.  I've actually just given up and programmed her to say his name.

As I continue on this rambling account that is increasingly calling my mothering skills into question, it occurs to me that I ought to name my children.  For purposes of this blog, I will call them Thing 1 (boy, 7), Thing 2 (girl, 6), Toot (boy, 21 months, goat), and Puddle (boy, 4 months).   Moving on.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 have tablets.  They were Christmas gifts from their Nana two Christmas's ago and they love them possibly more than they love me.  We have already had to declare the dinner table a "device-free" zone and set various other restrictions in place.  One of the words in Toot's perhaps 20 word vocabulary is "tab-it."  I've even seen Puddle eyeing them with envy.  I discourage this media addiction.  I am a kick-them-outside kind of mom.  I like nothing better than for my children to finish the day smelling of dirt and sunshine, leaving a healthy ring of grime around the bathtub when the water drains.  The only way to break this hold that electronic devices has over them, then, obviously, is to lead by example.  "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work.  So yesterday, when the Kindle Fire HD6 my mom bought me for my birthday arrived, I responded accordingly, and hudded in a remote corner of the living room with my back to them all, snarling, "My birthday-present!  We wants it, precious!  We wantsss it!!"

So, yeah, I have a tablet!  An awesome, amazing pink tablet!!  And I have already made mad progress on the book I'm currently reading.  No, I'm not telling you which one it is.  I've decided to only tell you what I like about books after I've read them because quite frankly if a book isn't doing it for me I'm more likely to put it down and pick up another one than to soldier on so I can give it a complete review.  Now, if you'll excuse me.  I've got some reading to do.