I’m changing my reading habits, adding listening to the repertoire. Up to now I’ve been a print snob, looking down on audiobooks as a lazy person’s excuse to avoid reading. I used to think of graphic novels and memoirs as comic books, beneath me, but thanks to banned books like Maus, Fun Home, Persepolis, and Gender Queer, I’ve come around on that. So why not try audiobooks as well?
Actually, there’s a better reason than “why not.” Lately I’ve left a lot of books unfinished, too easily tempted to move on to others in my to-read stack, too ready to put a novel aside at the first unlikable character or improbable plot twist, too easily bored with mysteries when there’s science fiction to be read. Maybe I’ll be more likely to finish books … especially ones my book club selects when I wish they’d selected others … if I listen to them instead.
Donna and I listen to podcasts and books on tape during road trips. This’ll be different. The reading chair will become my listening chair. What’ll I look at? What’ll I do with my hands? The notation on the audiobook I just downloaded says it’s ten hours long!
Perhaps — and this would be good — it’ll be like listening to radio serials as a kid, and I’ll be totally wrapped up in the experience. No, I wasn’t a kid in the 1930s & 40s; I’m not that old! But yeah, I did listen to radio serials as a kid. My family and I lived on an Air Force base in Germany in the mid-1950s, back when there was no Armed Forces TV, just Armed Forces Radio Network. AFRN’s programming pretty much consisted of those old serials: Amos & Andy, Inner Sanctum, The Shadow, Our Miss Brooks, and the like. Since that was all the entertainment GIs and their families had, we listened, just as American families listened in the 30s and 40s when the serials were new. If I can recapture that mood, maybe I won’t need to find something to do with my eyes and hands!
A friend suggested downloading two apps to my iPhone and iPad: Audible, which plays audiobooks purchased from Amazon; also Libby, for audiobooks borrowed from libraries. Which is where I’m starting. I checked into the Pima County Library site and started looking at titles by a favorite author, Michael Connelly. The first one with an audio version available for immediate download was Two Kinds of Truth, a Bosch novel. Turns out I’d read the print version a couple of years ago, but since the audiobook is narrated by Titus Welliver, the actor who plays Bosch on the Amazon streaming series, I’ll give it a go.
While I’m changing reading habits I’m also changing the focus of my You Can’t Read That! banned book posts, cutting back on news roundups and shifting instead to reading and reviewing books targeted by the torch & pitchfork brigades. I’ve been reviewing banned books all along, of course, and have published more than 70 reviews here to date. But the news roundups? When I started tracking and linking to banned book news stories, back in the early 2000s, I was almost alone in doing so. Over time other bloggers — and now organizations like the American Library Association and PEN America — are also offering news roundups, more frequently and in greater depth than I can, and I feel I’m no longer contributing much with mine.
Reviews of the challenged and banned books behind the news, now, that’s a different story. My take on these books is often different from that of other reviewers, and here I feel I do have something to contribute. Here’s where I feel I can play a useful role in the battle against book banning.
I’m currently reading Ellen Hopkins’ young adult novel Tricks, a story about teenagers from different walks of life who wind up on the streets as prostitutes. I hope to finish it and publish a review within the next few days. By way of whetting your appetite (if teenaged prostitutes didn’t do it), Ellen is the most banned author in the United States; Tricks, as of last year, the 4th most banned book.
On to less bookish subjects.
The Rapture passed me by. All my friends and family seem to be accounted for. Well, maybe next time.
I’m no longer plugged into the MilAir scuttlebutt network, but there’s chatter about spatial disorientation on Twitter and other social media platforms, and I won’t be surprised to learn Spatial D was behind the Marine pilot’s decision to eject from that F-35 last week. Anyone who’s experienced it while flying knows how overwhelming it can be. That would include me.
Last Monday or the Monday before, Rachel Maddow devoted her A segment, the initial 20 or so ad-free minutes of her cable news show, to the return of five Americans who’d been imprisoned in Iran. Part of the story was the tit-for-tat release of five Iranians held in the U.S., and she noted that three of the five chose not to go back. One emigrated to a third country and two stayed here, in the country that had imprisoned them. Of course what Maddow really wanted to talk about was our nation’s status as the City upon a Hill to the world, the land where almost everyone wants to live, and how important it is we maintain that status. What she didn’t say, possibly because the latest examples of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ bribe-taking hadn’t yet come out, nor the indictment of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and his wife for more of the same, is that corruption is the primary reason people in other countries want to live here. Everyday Americans don’t experience corruption. We don’t have to bribe cops, fire departments, city inspectors, or prospective employers. They do — it’s a given in the shitholes where they live.
What we in the U.S. have (and always have had) is high-level corruption. Trump, Thomas, and Menendez are just recent examples. The danger, and it’s a danger I wish Maddow had addressed, is that our high-level corruption will start to trickle down into day-to-day interactions between citizens and government. If we allow it to happen — and I have to note that Republicans seem entirely indifferent to the prospect — we’ll be just another shithole.
One of my favorite watches (you knew I’d get around to wristwatches, didn’t you?) is this retro-styled Seiko automatic with a green dial. It came with a plain-Jane brown leather strap which I quickly replaced. Over the past year I’ve tried different straps on this watch and I’m not through yet. One of them is the green alligator number you see in the photo.
When I first tried the green strap I thought the overall effect was too much … green on green with a vengeance, you know? … and I rejected it. But yesterday I fished it out of the spare strap drawer and now I kind of like it. Maybe I just needed a little time to think about it. I have a brown alligator strap on order, and think that’ll look pretty good on it as well.
I’m buying a new watch for my birthday, which comes around on Halloween. This time around I’m going Chinese (although it’ll have a Japanese Seiko movement) and if that’s not daring enough I’m buying it from the factory in China, so I plan to order in early October, hoping it’ll arrive by the end of the month. I asked around in the watch forums I belong to, and no one had a bad word to say about the brand, the specific watch I want, or the experience of dealing with the factory in China, but you never know. More on that later … I don’t want to jinx things talking about it now. Naming calls, as the old superstition has it.