JAFO

Just Another Effin' Observer

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Location: Huntsville, Texas, United States

Saturday, November 12, 2005

So Many Books , So Little Time...

I've been reading quite a bit lately.

Now, anyone who knows me would also know that a phrase like, "I've been reading" carries about the same stop-the-presses impact as, oh, say, "I was breathing the other day...." Like Wal-Mart’s lower prices , I am always reading something. Always®.

Back in my itinerant rent-a-geek days, I generally did the bulk of my reading in bars. After I got off work, I would mosey over to my neighborhood hang-out (it was always the first thing I looked for when I arrived in a new city, after checking into the hotel and locating the office), ensconce myself on a stool in my favorite quadrant of the bar, order a Martini ("and keep ‘em coming"), open my book, and become the World’s Best Bar Customer; i.e., an excellent tipper who seems never to get drunk (in point of fact, I got frickin' ripped, but I drank slowly – a Martini is not a drink that one chugs, unless you want to give the room a new paint job – so the alcohol tends to get more completely metabolized; my patented technique for 'Endurance Drinking'), one whom the bartenders could pretty much ignore all evening long. After a couple of chapters I would have dinner, then call a cab, and go home.

Strangely, this behavior has actually gotten me on the wrong side of more than one of my fellow bar patrons. There was one fellow who asserted that it was rude of me to sit at a bar and do nothing but read. Funny; I had been brought up to believe that behaving oneself, minding one's own business, and not bothering other people was anything but rude. Live and learn.

Another fellow barfly, a woman I'll call Ronnie (since that was her name), first made my acquaintance when she noticed me sitting at the opposite side of the bar, thumbing through a dictionary. (I had just acquired a new copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and I was exploring. I'm a nerd; I do that kind of thing.) She thought I was some kind of nut. I thought she was a loud, brassy, obnoxious strumpet. Then we got to know each other, had some rather entertaining evenings, and found out that we were both right. The most valuable lesson I carried away from that experience was: Never again will I second-guess a first impression.

This essay was going somewhere, but I cannot for the life of me recall where. Oh, yes, now I remember: the summer reading list that I’ve been whittling away at.

Last night, I finished reading Tammy Bruce's The New American Revolution, and I thought it was just swell. At the same time (yes, I can read as many as three books concurrently), I am reading Scalia Dissents, a collection of Justice Antonin Scalia's more fascinating opinions, edited by Kevin Ring. A couple of days ago, I wrapped up Intellectual Morons, by Daniel J. Flynn.

Recently completed books include Madame Bovary's Ovaries, by the father-daughter team of David P. and Nanelle R. Barash (highly recommended); 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, by the inestimable Bernard Goldberg (the best part is why Al Franken is #37 -- but I won't spoil it!); and Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larsen, about the devastating Galveston hurricane of Septemer, 1900.

And then there is the stack still untouched. Or, in some cases, tasted but not yet devoured. One particular example of that category is 1776, by David McCullough, whom I regard as one of, if not the, best historical writers of this, or any, century. (No disrespect intended toward Victor David Hanson, whose works I devour like, oh, sharp cheddar cheese whenever the stuff is within arm's reach.) Another is Black Rednecks and White Liberals, by whom I regard as one of, quite simply, the best of the best (the precise category is profoundly irrelevant here, he is just flat-out worth reading - even his laundry lists are worth reading), Thomas Sowell. And then there is the latest by Ronald Radosh, Red Star Over Hollywood. (I have read a lot by Ronald Radosh; the man simply does not know how to disappoint a reader.)

My summer reading list is taking me well into autumn. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Books are good. Books are your friends. Books are easier to take into the bathroom with you than a laptop. (Speaking of which, my current bathroom reading - no disrespect intended - is Stet, Dammit! (which I acquired from National Review Books but cannot seem to find a reference to - anywhere), an anthology of Florence King's 'The Misanthrope's Corner, originally published in National Review).

I have never been a huge fan of First Lady Causes (Lady Bird Johnson's Highway Beautification mission left me absolutely cold, and Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No' campaign required me to say 'No' to everything to which I was most inclined to say 'Yum, Gimme!'), but I can really get behind Laura Bush's mission to promote universal literacy. Because you haven't lived until you have read. (And if you have gotten through your sophomore year of high school, I strongly suggest that you read Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities again, just for the sheer joy of it. Trust me, it's a much better book when your grade doesn't hang on it.)

And if you're reading this right now, I rest my case.

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