Friday, March 28, 2008

killing yourself to live (again)

do you ever get to a point when you're tired of reading? i was at that point yesterday. i was stranded in the middle of "something happened," by joseph heller. it's well-written, interesting - i want to be absorbed in it, but for some reason i just can't get there.

i've found this year that without owning a tv and without having any real hobbies, i have a lot of spare time. i am one of those people that, when left with extra time and very little responsibility, chooses to nap. as perfect as this life sounds (30 or so hour work week and bars everywhere with very cheap beer), i often get bored. my roommates and i have resorted to card and dice games, but you can only spend so much time playing rummy before the thought of trying to find the six to complete a five-six-seven run in spades makes you want to stab your eyes out.

so i sleep a lot, probably more than i should, which when you wake up having wasted an entire afternoon in bed does nothing but induce a feeling of guilt. given all this time i should be developing some skill, or at least (the english major in me contends) reading.

but i read in waves and sometimes i just don't have it in me. there will be weeks when i finish a book every two days, then a month when i laboriously cover about 10 pages a day, if i'm lucky. i'm there now. i find myself zoning out through entire pages of "something happened," and reading them with little regard to what actually happens. reading this book has become less about enjoying it or getting any intellectual satisfaction and more about setting a landspeed record for number of pages per minute.

until today i was saved. i've discovered by observing books left on the desk in the teacher's office that john, a new guy at dino elementary, has excellent taste in literature. and by excellent i mean nearly perfectly aligned with mine. first he had "chuck klosterman IV." then "extremely loud and incredibly close," by jonathan safran foer. i don't know what else john has up his sleeve, but i want to. also, today he was hunched over his laptop, downloading an entire season of "america's next top model." he seems perfect.

he mentioned that he'd read "killing yourself to live," which is probably the best of klosterman's four nonfiction books to date. i've read it twice, both times completed in one or maybe two sittings spanning a few hours. i asked to borrow it, and in my third reading i think i've found the reading spark i needed.

in about an hour today i've already "read" 71 pages; i use the word read hesitantly, because it almost doesn't seem like reading. it's like having a conversation with someone you find endlessly interesting, who you'd listen to talk for hours on end without hoping to get a word in yourself and be pretty okay with it.

if i could write a book, in a perfect world it would sound just like "killing yourself to live," though if i ever attempted to mimic klosterman i would fail, as i am neither as witty or clever as he. that and i have yet to adopt an affinity for adverbs like "soul-crushingly."

if you are unfamiliar, "killing yourself to live" is klosterman's documentation of a roadtrip he took a few years ago working as a staff writer for Spin Magazine. He spent a few weeks and covered over 6500 miles visiting places in america where famous musicians had died. though this propels the plot and gives us a reason for following him on this epic trip, it's not really the most interesting part of the book.

klosterman gets away with, if not succeeds at making interesting, what every writer secretly wants to do - talk about themselves to a captive audience. i probably know more about chuck klosterman than some of the people i actually know in real life that i count among my friends. and though it seems like that would be maybe the most boring book ever, it's not.

so i'll probably tear through it and you should, too. and if you ever get the chance to see mr. klosterman read at a major book retailer in your hometown, don't forget to bring your copy of his book to autograph.

(what were we thinking?)

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