Sometimes I wonder what’s happened to me: I don’t read for pleasure anymore.
The evidence struck me this week when I spent almost two entire days … reading for pleasure and realised I hadn’t done so in a couple of years.
The proof of that has been staring me in the face, so to speak, for almost as long: the last time I bought a novel in English, come to think of it, was in June last year: John Irving’s The Cider House Rules. It’s 720 pages long. I’m on page 554.
There was a time when, boning up on world literature at its best, I’d buy a dozen novels at a time every month or so – second-hand, from a friendly Bang Lamphoo bookshop. When I started this blog, I thought a good chunk of the copy would be reviews of such books. Instead…
There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but they boil down to one: I’ve become addicted to Hollywood movies.
Since I got that state-of-the-mart TV set and its zillion channels, I’ve been spending hours every night zapping instead of flipping through pages.
(In the daytime, I’m fully booked and still read copiously, but in Thai, to dig out fictional gems for my trade.)
It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that the time I’ve spent going through those 554 pages coincides with the duration of television broadcasting failures over the past fourteen months: whenever there’s a storm outside, the TV has a tendency to sulk or mourn, sometimes for hours on end; internet seizures care of TOT don’t help either.
Of course I’m not proud of myself watching trash movies when I could read good books. It’s like a disavowal of what I’ve held dear all my life: how can I rail against bad prose when I lap up celluloid trash I’d be ashamed to see in print? If only Arte reached this land at decent hours or the world’s best movies were available at a click of the remote, I wouldn’t feel so shitty.
But I understand kids better these days, and have grown very much sceptic about attempts by old men to have them drop e-games and e-chats and read books instead: clearly, a page is turned, to digital.
As for that book I read for pleasure, well, it wasn’t that much different from what Hollywood offers at its best, except it was in French and written by someone I’ve known and met less than a dozen times over the past forty years: à la Tom Wolfe, à la Truman Capote, a blow-by-blow account of an abduction in real life that went tragically wrong. It’s an exhilarating if depressing read that put me up-to-date on the parley state of French society in its margins and allowed me to brush up on verlan. It’ll make a fabulous movie.
Which reminds me: what’s on tonight?