Answering Questions, and Asking One of You

I started it this morning; the setting of a habit.

Morning writing

I set the alarm for 6:00 and didn’t listen to the lazy fucker in my head who told me to sleep for just a few more minutes.

I sat down in the living room, alone, and wrote.

I saw no neighbours, only a few people riding bikes to work (I look out over a popular bike trail) and clouds at the base of the mountain I see outside my window, in the distance. I also write in the evening. I need to, what with the full-time job and all.

Next time though, I’ll turn the internet off as well.

This post was originally a comment on  The Boy With The Hat, as an answer to the question “When do you write?”, now expanded somewhat.

I also answered the question “Why do you write?”, over on Daniel J Davis’s blog with the following:

Honestly? I mean that rare, real kind of honesty we see so little of these days: I write because I think I’m good at it. I think that if I do this enough, one day people will pay me for it. It goes hand in hand with the sense of accomplishment that I think is the real reason so many people play video games (you complete a level and your sense of accomplishment is tickled).

I wrote a bit as a kid and a teacher said it was good. I then wrote more and my friends said it was good.

I want more of that. That’s why I write. I don’t think I have anything meaningful to say and I don’t need to vent or express my philosophies. I just want that pat on the back.

Now you know.

What I really want to know, dear blog reader, is why you read the books you do. What, for instance, made you decide to read the book you are currently reading?

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21 thoughts on “Answering Questions, and Asking One of You

  1. When coming up with my reading list I imagine myself on my deathbed, and I ask myself what books I regret not having read. The answer is the classics, the books that stood the test of time. Time is the ultimate critic.

    So I now read Shakespeare and the rest of the classical lot.

    But I think it doesn’t really matter what you read so long as you read, because every book tells the same story. Only the narrator is different.

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      1. I mean philosophically… the story of one’s existence. Every book is ultimately about existence.

        I believe that every book tells the same story and at the same time that every book tells a different story.

        I like to hold two different opinions in my mind at the same time and suspend judgement. It creates many possibilities for a writer.

        But I don’t really mean what I say because I say what I don’t mean. :)

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  2. I know writers are supposed to read more than they write. I spent my youth reading novels, the exclusively non-fiction for a time, when I was a book snob. Then I returned to literary fiction. But for about the past 5 years, I don’t read much. I average a book about every 4 months. I also don’t buy more than 3 to 4 albums a year. I find that my tastes are very specific, and – just like music – if I don’t find it really fits within what my tastes have evolved into, I’ll put it down after a few pages. I’m currently reading “Next” by Michael Crichton, because I wanted to really focus on how a master writes a best-selling thriller. I’m about to put it back on the shelf after finishing the prologue and chapter one. Commercial fiction – for the most part – hold no appeal for me anymore. There are a few exceptions, though. I recently finished “Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter” because of 1) The cover and 2) There was quite a bit of historical references in it (unlike the movie). I also finished “Cujo” by Stephen King because, well, I love just about everything he writes.
    I have nothing waiting in the “to read” stack, currently.

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    1. I went through a Crichton phase a while back. I’m better now.

      Highest recommendation I have in my arsenal goes to Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone. Put it in the “to read” stack, right now.

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  3. I pick books for several reasons: the cover art intrigues me, the jacket description captures my imagination, or occasionally, I recognize the author from another part of their career (blogger, journalist, actor whatever). There’s no decisive formula. It’s visceral.

    That said, there is a pattern: strong heroines, anti-heroes, villains that I love to love, and the fantastical, poetic or strange attract me. But not always.

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  4. I went through for about four years where I read little, if any, fiction. I read philosophy, essays, textbooks, GRE study guides, all the like. As I transitioned back in to fiction, it was uncomfortable, at first — especially reading anything contemporary and mainstream — because I was used to swimming in the deepest depts of the human psyche, not splashing in puddles for fun.

    It felt dirty, even.

    In the end, I’m happy for it.

    I have to agree with hat-wearing Vincent, though, that “every book tells the same story and at the same time that every book tells a different story.”

    The books I have most recently read are, as follows:
    “Game of Thrones’ by George R.R. Martin
    “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky
    “Tribulation Force” by Jerry B Jenkins and Tim LeHaye
    “Animal Farm” by Orson Wells
    “Candide” by Voltaire
    and currently “Duma Key” by Stephen King

    Each story is made up of different parts and players, but the story: “humanity is flawed, things don’t always go as planned, and we stubbornly try to change that.”

    As for what leads me to these books?

    Sometimes, I feel like I am “meant” to read a certain book. Other times, I’m just curious. I want a challenge, I want to relax, I want to say “wow, people REALLY read this,” or “WOW, people SHOULD REALLY read this…”

    “Game of Thrones” came after desperately longing for the third season of the HBO series. All credit given to Mr. Martin, I want my show back.

    “The Idiot” came after years of limiting myself to “Crime and Punishment,” which I have read three times now.

    In the case of “Tribulation Force,” I read the first book in the “Left Behind” series when I was in high school and was able to pick the entire series up, in hard cover, for under $10 at the used book shop. It was enjoyable, quick, easy.

    “Animal Farm” was on the shelf and made for a nice, quick one-sitting read.

    “Candide” was also on the shelf, and was also a quick read.

    “Duma Key” is coming because I will admit (and only on this page) that I have never read a Stephen King novel. It came highly praised amongst the works I had available to me, and “The Stand” was not available.

    Great prompt!

    -A.M.
    http://amschultz.com

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    1. Wow…. a comment longer than the post that prompted it, well done.

      I will take the chance to admit (on this page only) that I have yet to read a single sentence by Dostoevsky. And as far as Stephen King goes. I say read Misery, read the Shining or read his short stories. And On Writing.
      I started Duma Key once and put it down after 50 pages or so and have no desire to pick it up.

      Series three of Game of Thrones is going to rock, by the way.

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  5. Something was nagging me as “wrong” all day.

    After watching a 4-part interview with Orson Welles last night, I miscredited him as author of Animal Farm. My apologies to George Orwell.

    This is why I should sleep.

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  6. Reason one that I read is for entertainment, and reason 1A is for raw material, because I happen to subscribe to the belief that every writer’s voice is a product of the writers they’ve read poured through their own experiences and personality.

    Why do I read what I read? A more difficult question. Sometimes I read a glowing review. Sometimes it’s an abstract idea of what the book may be about. Sometimes it’s recommended by someone whose viewpoint I respect. I hop pretty freely from fiction genre to genre, and sometimes (rarely) I venture over to the non-fiction side, so sometimes it’s just to scratch a genre itch I have.

    The bottom line is that something – a review, a blurb, past experience, recommendation, or a compelling cover image–has to give me the idea that I’ll receive some mixture of entertainment, enlightenment, and experience, and that I have at least a fair chance of either A) learning something I didn’t know, B) reading something described in a way I haven’t before, or best of all, C), both.

    Sometimes I’m pleased, sometimes disappointed. But the possibility that lives in every page keeps me reading and hopefully will until my eyes fall out.

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    1. Excellent answer. I especially like “… every writer’s voice is a product of the writers they’ve read poured through their own experiences and personality.”

      I took a non-fiction binge a few years back, mostly biology and politics, but have hardly touched the stuff since. Now, it’s mostly “literary”, with a dip in Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror every now and then.

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  7. Strangely enough, I encountered your blog just as I was answering this same question on my own.. That’s Serendipity for sure. Love it when those things happen. and I’m glad you didn’t turn off the internet this one time. Great post!

    The short answer for me is: “Because I can’t stop.” For me, words (and images) are a panacea for all ills. Words are my nightcap/ backrub/ walk in the park/ my vacation. I’ve never wanted to be without a book, blog post or cereal packet to read. Maybe it’s OCD, but I never want to.

    Some would say unfortunately, in this day of information overload, to me it’s all a Must Read.

    Oh well, not such a bad habit, in the scheme of things…

    http://darkfeathers.com/2012/07/the-tiny-details/

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  8. I’m reading Len Berry’s Vitamin F for a few reasons. First because I just think the topic is fascinating, but also because he’s writing a round-robin for my charity project and I believe in supporting you guys! :)

    I’m also reading A. Lincoln. It’s dense and LONG. But my dad said it was good and let me borrow his copy. I’ve had it since November, but I’m not even close to being finished. It’s interesting and very well written, but I don’t find myself making a lot of time for it. One day, though. I’ll finish it eventually.

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  9. These days I’m mostly reading manga (the right-to-left kind) and telling myself it’s because it’ll help me with my Japanese studies this fall. Usually, though, I pick books on a whim. Maybe the cover looks good, the title is interesting, I like other stuff the author has written or the subject interests me. But the books I read almost always move some little switch inside me before I even buy/borrow them.

    Of course my whimsical nature can result in me forgetting I was reading a really interesting book and starting another one just as interesting, but I can always get back to the first one later. That’s why I would never buy one of those disappearing-ink-books, not to mention how impractical they must be for libraries (see http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-cetera/book-publisher-experiments-with-disappearing-ink-20120628/).

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