Friday, October 28, 2011

Pattern People: I Am Not One

A nonfiction book. Then a novel. Rinse and repeat. In theory, it sounded nice, a way to keep my ungainly stacks of books organized. No way was I going to bother organizing them further beyond how I had already stacked them, with most randomly placed and only one that could be considered organized with Las Vegas and Florida books within it, and this seemed like the right idea. At least my reading could be organized.

I started this notion with Like I Was Sayin'..., a collection of columns by Chicago god Mike Royko, and after that, I read O: A Presidential Novel. Then Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins, followed by Sleepless Nights by Sarah Bilston, the sequel to Bed Rest, which didn't work for me past page 30, because the diary format that was employed in Bed Rest was ejected, because Q's sister was coming over from England to visit and see the baby, and Bilston wrote from her perspective as well. Plus, the first novel felt sort of stuffy, whereas this sequel was overly stuffy.

Instead, The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. Then Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey by Linda Greenhouse. Then How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler, which I ejected after page 20 because of the awful writing, not much in the way of powers of description, particularly since Wisler couldn't simply say that the dog barked twice, but rather that the dog "produced two barks."

By this time, The Men Who Would Be King by Nicole LaPorte was eating at me, because it was time to figure out how I want to eventually write my 1930s Hollywood history project after all the research is done, and I wanted to see how LaPorte covered the story of DreamWorks SKG. I'm not as much interested in business practices as she is, but the level of detail she produced in this book is astonishing and will undoubtedly remain an inspiration for as long as this particular project goes on.

The breakdown of this idea of nonfiction then fiction then nonfiction and so on came as I was doing it, because of Angelina's Bachelors by Brian O'Reilly, which I had received in the mail and wanted to read so badly, but wanted to stick to my pattern. It's about Angelina, who cooks and cooks to try to deal with the death of her husband, and soon comes to a deal with her new across-the-street neighbor, a retiree who pays her to cook two meals a day for him, six days a week. And soon, other bachelors get wind of this.

This pattern is all wrong for me. I'm only organized where it matters, such as making my bed, washing the dishes, and my writing projects. With the writing projects, the only pattern for books for research is to keep reading them and taking notes until I have enough information for a book, while also seeking out other resources. That should not apply to my regular reading.

So I've finally had enough. I decided that if The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher came today, I would make it part of a triple header for the weekend that would include Angelina's Bachelors and Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah. It didn't come today, but it might come tomorrow, and even so, I decided to get started. Not with Angelina's Bachelors, as you might expect, but with Kitchen Chinese, which is a gently descriptive, yet mild debut novel. I don't feel completely enveloped in the Beijing that Isabelle Lee becomes accustomed to after moving there, and I want to be, especially with the descriptions of the different types of food there. But I like it enough to keep on reading. And after this, definitely Angelina's Bachelors.

I'm also reading The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House by Bob Woodward, to see if I want the Hollywood project first or one of my presidential book ideas, but that's only sporadic throughout the weekend. These novels first. And I've also got The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, purely for endless inspiration, because he writes about books with such a passionate love that it makes me love books more than I already do. I read it column by column, as these words appeared in the McSweeney's magazine The Believer. So I don't feel the need to read it all at once, though it is often tempting.

This feels right now, and this is how it shall remain, to just go with what I really want to read right away.


  1. You'd think with your history of writing reviews (for film) that it would be a natural transition to review books, especially seeing how many books you tear through. There must be at least some of them that you love. Do you have a collection of book reviews here?

  2. It's o.k. not to follow a pattern. Just because I have OCD, that doesn't mean everyone has to have it. Your lack of organization makes me insane, but since you already turned down my proposal, it doesn't matter.


  3. One thing I didn't reveal in my previous entry about my writing life up until now is that I wrote book reviews for a publication called Valley Scene Magazine, which was distributed throughout the San Fernando, Simi, and Conejo valleys of Southern California. No pay, but I liked the idea of getting free books.

    However, though I was able to write the reviews, I didn't enjoy it, because I was always worried about getting the gist of a book written well in a review, what I should reference, etc. I will write book reviews of a kind here if I feel so strongly about one (Only those I really, really love, such as "Angelina's Bachelors", which I'm finishing right now, and though I want to write with as much detail as Nicole LaPorte did in "The Men Who Would Be King", I want to write with as huge a heart as Brian O'Reilly did in this one), but to do it regularly, I don't think so.

    I don't have reviews so much here as raving about books I loved while including excerpts from them, such as in the way of "First Lines from Book I Love", which I think made it to #3 before I stopped. I think I'll resurrect it for "Angelina's Bachelors."

    It's not so much not having OCD, just that this particular pattern didn't work for me at all. I blaze through books, and I don't want to keep track of reading a nonfiction book and then a novel. I just want to read. Whatever interests me in the moment, that's what I'll go for, such as the next two novels in the George Smiley series by John Le Carre ("A Murder of Quality" and "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"), which I'll probably begin this coming week.

  4. Here's the first "First Lines," written presumptuously, as I still haven't read "Consuming Passions", though I may in the next few weeks:

    Second "First Lines":

    Third "First Lines":

  5. It turns out I wrote a fourth one for "The Secret of Everything" by Barbara O'Neal, which became my new favorite novel early last month, and part of my permanent collection. "Angelina's Bachelors" is my new favorite novel, and a new "Favorite Lines" is coming, though for now, here's the previously latest one: