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Book-loving fools

The other day I struck up a conversation with a guy who, like me, had a background in news reporting. He had been in TV while I’d been in newspapers, but there was plenty of common ground and we talked for a while about the business and how it’s changed. Publishing, of course, has also changed and continues to change.

The conversation soon shifted to books and literature, probably because I’d mentioned that I was a copy editor. Have you ever had one of these conversations where you feel you’ve met a kindred soul–another person who loves to read and has read some of your favorite authors, so you can actually talk about them? These days, with the internet and a thousand other distractions, that doesn’t happen often enough and I’m thrilled when it does.

Yet, there’s always a moment where someone mentions an author I haven’t read and, while I realize that no one has time to read everything, there are some authors I feel that I “should read” because … I don’t know, maybe because having read them it will give me more material to discuss and debate when I do hang out with the artsy fartsies. Also, working in publishing I probably have some “responsibility” to read as much as possible and to at least keep up with the NYT best-seller list.

Thomas Pynchon was evoked. Now I have read Pynchon. I have a friend who liked Gravity’s Rainbow so much that he had the first line of the book tattooed on his leg in a book font (serifs and all). Naturally I was curious–what was so good about that book that he’d go and get a crazy tattoo like that? But I read The Crying of Lot 49 first — my friend said it would be easier than diving right into Gravity’s Rainbow. I found Lot 49 a ridiculous book, but I still have Gravity’s Rainbow  waiting for me on my Nook. I’ll read it some day.

Really, when I think of Pynchon, I can’t help but recall this old Saturday Night Live skit where Amy Poehler plays child actress Dakota Fanning hosting “The Dakota Fanning Show.” Poehler portrays Fanning as this elitist intellectual discussing obscure plays and authors (including Pynchon) while professing no knowledge of popular culture. So I got the impression, not having been very familiar with Pynchon at the time of the SNL skit, that he was over the average reader’s head. It poses a challenge to me. Is it going to be over my head, or will I understand it? More importantly, will I like it? 

My new friend recommended I check out Don DeLillo, specifically his book White Noise. I will always take book suggestions under consideration, if the recommendation comes from someone who seems to be on a similar intellectual wavelength. …

I like a book in any genre if it’s written well. OK, it doesn’t even have to be “written well” — that’s so subjective anyway.

My personal recommendation right now is Cloud Atlas. Read it if you can before you see the movie.