It was not one of my goals, during the current Global Time Out, to set a new personal record for number of books being read at one time. But I seem to have ended up there. Just as it is easier to buy books than to read them, they are generally easier to start than to finish. And it is not unusual for me to have several going at once, but things may have gotten a little out of hand.
By way of motivational self-shaming, here is a brief breakdown of literary works currently In Progress, along with my excuses for not having finished them:
Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
No shame in this one, as I am reading in conjunction with the Blind Assassin Meander, which still has three weeks to go. I am liking it but find myself constantly wrongfooted by its peculiar combination of humor, time-and reality-shifting, and an undercurrent of persistent dread.
J.G. Ballard, Hello America
Written in 1981, Ballard’s delirious vision of post-apocalyptic America feels weirdly resonant today — there’s even a 45th president who, despite being obviously crazy and named Manson, seems vastly preferable to the actual one. This is one of those books that would be easy to rip through in a day — Ballard’s stripped-down prose is built for speed — but it’s more fun if you take it slow.
Stefan Zweig, The Collected Stories
I actually read this whole thing, but over so long a period of time that by the time I finished I had forgotten the beginning. Not that it matters so much, as these are stories, but the later stories were so great that I impulsively started over again. I’m only a few days of solid effort away from closing the loop.
Chris O’ Leary, Rebel Rebel
O’Leary’s the best Bowie writer around, and this song-by-song journey through the early work is a delight. But of course one must also listen to the music, and always there is some rabbit hole to go down… so the going is slow, and still the second (and much larger) volume lurks there menacingly on my shelf. But what’s the hurry?
Dan Brodnitz, The Lavender Lemonade Is Back
I parcel these poems out to myself one or two at a time, as a treat.
Allen Thayer, Tim Maia Racional Vols. 1 & 2
It’s a fascinating story how Tim Maia, a Brazilian musician of prodigious talents and appetites, went through a mid-70s religious conversion that caused him to renounce worldly pleasures at the same time he was recording two albums of spiritually infused heavy funk. But again, progress tends to be slow, and I’m OK with that.
Philip Smith, Walking Through Walls
This memoir focuses on Smith’s father, an interior decorator who moonlighted as a spiritual healer and all-around miracle worker. It’s an entertaining trip through the weird world of Miami in the Seventies, but though the author seems smart and level-headed (all things considered), I’m finding it a little hard to buy all the hocus-pocus.
Clinton Heylin, Can You Hear the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography
For a while now I’ve been mulling a Van Morrison–related writing project, but the available time and the inspiration have not yet coincided. Maybe one of these sunny days that will change.
Christmas Humphreys, Zen Buddhism
This I bought because it is namechecked in Van’s song “Cleaning Windows,” and because there was an autographed copy on Ebay, and because I sometime have poor impulse control. Maybe this book will help me with that.
Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking
This collection of Amis’s writing about alcohol is problematic for a similar reason to the music books — after reading a few pages one of course longs for a beverage. Speaking of which….