Thursday, November 07, 2002

Getting Back Into Being Actively Literate

Recently, I have started reading again. At first, this seems preposterous. "Reading again? How could you avoid reading? Don't you read all day at work? Software reports and project management plans and the like?" Of course, I don't mean that kind of reading. I mean reading just for me and not because somebody's offering me a pant-load of money to do it. Books, novels, literature...whatever label you'd like to apply to recreational reading material.

Up until a few days ago, the limits of my reading time would be spent reading Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side in the bathroom. Hardly challenging, to say the least. Then, one day, I realized that The Two Towers was going to be out in theatres in December, two months away, and I insist on re-reading the books before the movies come out. I began to panic, in a very slight way. Two months? How on earth can I finish reading close to 500 pages in two months with my busy schedule? That's INSANE.

I took a few steps back from that line of thought and realized I was getting a little carried away. 500 pages really isn't that much. In university, I used to read at least that many pages of bland, academic historical drivel in the day or two before my exams to prepare. And with Tolkien, I actually wanted to get back up to speed with the exploits of little Frodo and the Fellowship and walk again across the fields of Rohan, into Isengard, and across the borders of Mordor.

So I made a conscious decision to get on with it. I was aware of the fact that on buses, many people like to read. I have always wondered why people would do this: how could they keep picking up the story again when reading in small 20-minutes chunks? Me, I have always been a discman-and-headphones kinda guy. It has always suited me to shut-out the sound of the annoying geeky guys in tha back of the bus who are arguing at length over what was cooler (Pokemon or Digimon?), the chatter of the career public servants (who have nothing better to talk about than their drudging, repetitive, soul-less work, day after day after day), and the roar of the poorly-maintained bus engine.

Side note: I have this weird thing about buses. I like looking at people and wondering what they're like, and whether they could be a friend, what they do for a living, and other stuff about them, but I'd rather not talk to them and find out for sure. Maybe I'm not the only one. But it only works if they're looking away: as soon as they see you looking at them, they'll probably think you're being "Creepy Staring-Guy," and you quickly have to avert your eyes and make it look like you're looking all over the place, and not just at them. Maybe people do think I'm "Creepy Staring-Guy."

Of course, I can't STAND it if someone's staring at me. I'm nuts, aren't I? Except if it's a cute girl, giving me a bit of an ego boost, which is nice in the morning. And then, I usually get to work and find that there's a sesame seed stuck to my face and realize she was probably staring at that. Anyway, back to reading (end of side note).

I decided I'd try it. Instead of shutting-out the world with music (which still leaves your eyes to wander and still imagine the conversation of the annoying geeky guys and the public servants in your head) I would shut the world out and immerse myself in a world of Elves, Dwarves and plucky little Hobbits, the loveable little scamps.

A week and a bit later, I was amazed. Somehow, I had finished the book. Even though I'm one of those people who are irritated by having to stop a movie half-way through because it interrupts the plot, I had managed to put that aside. And chapter by chapter, page by page, mornings and evenings on the commute, I finished it, almost two months ahead of schedule.

Now, here's the conundrum: Do I read "The Return of the King" now or next fall to prepare for the movie? I still haven't figured that one out. In the meantime, I am four days into my next book, "Code to Zero" by Ken Follett, and I'm almost done. Excellent book, by the way. It's kind of a mystery within a mystery (is he or isn't he?) kinda plot.

Almost overnight, I have become a voracious bus-reader. Go figure. At least maybe now I can repair some of the "Creepy Staring-Guy" damage from the past couple of weeks. Now I will be "Oblivious Reading-Guy."


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