Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reading and 'Working'

Work has been really, really, really quiet lately. Especially this week. Few people and fewer phone calls. I can't complain.

I've found myself lately doing something I never do and never want to do; juggling several books at once. I am currently reading 4 books, and I don't like it because everything just drags out. What takes a week to finish takes four. It doesn't help that the books I am reading are goddamn huge. I am reading Journey to the West, which comes in four 600 page volumes. I am reading the second Drizzt collection, to try to get into fantasy again (more on that in a bit) which is three large fantasy books in one. Looking for Alaska is the third book, and it's actually short and pretty easy to read so far, but my Kindle I was reading it on froze up the other day and I haven't been able to fix it yet. Finally, as research for my novel that I will never write, I am reading Red Pine's The Diamond Sutra translation and commentary. That is a good 500-600 pages.

Anyways, fantasy. I used to love the crap out of fantasy books. I still love Lord of the Rings, but that's where my fondness starts and ends for fantasy. Those were books about characters, before the terrible genre standbys had infiltrated the genre. I know I am generalizing when I talk about fantasy, but after trying to get into it several times, I just got tired. Tired of racial attributes, black and white morality, stock characters and storylines. I think I lost faith a good 7-8 years ago when Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which started so good, literally became arguably the worst piece of literature I had ever read in my life. That is not hyperbole. It is that bad. Imagine a writer devoting entire pages to the strength of one's tea, or the floral pattern on a dress, while simultaneously creating a plot in which literally nothing happens, and every single character becomes an incredibly one dimensional sex fiend. Words can not describe my dislike of that series.

So, I tried in recent years. I picked up some Forgotten Realms books, and outside of R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt Collection (which manages to be somewhat morally complex and character driven and well written) I have had no luck. Darkwalkers on Moonshae? Kill me now.

I picked up a Magic: The Gathering book, having loved the card game in middle school and really digging the lore. I read about 10 pages then shelved it indefinitely.

As I am writing this though, I realize I am having the same struggle with another genre that has been near and dear to my heart in place of fantasy; sci-fi. Now, I am about as anti-nostalgia goggles as it gets. I wouldn't go so far as to say everything modern is always better, but I am a big fan of modern cinema and literature. I don't see the complete decline in quality that some say is occurring. Perhaps it's just because we haven't had decades to weed out the bad, maybe it's rose-tinted glasses, whatever. But I have been totally without sci-fi for months now. I picked up some short story collections of some award winners in the genre and didn't really like most of them.

Most of my sci-fi favorites; the first book in the Dune series, the early Foundation books, Brave New World, We, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Fahrenheit 451 and various Ray Bradbury short stories, are several decades old, or more. I have even thought of picking up a Star Wars book again, before convincing myself that everything wrong with Star Wars literature is what frustrates me with fantasy. I remember finally giving up on it early in high school with some weird bug alien invasion series. Plus, I don't like Star Wars nearly as much as I used to.

I guess it's good that I am enjoying what I am reading now, then. Perhaps I am just more of a drama guy now. I am enjoying my time with Journey to the West. It has a lot of things in it that professors will tell you not to do. Fight scenes are generally vague and short. The narrator makes frequent remarks to the reader about continuing to find out what happens next. But it all adds to the whimsical feel of the book so far (I am about 200 pages in is all). The Monkey King who played center stage up until lately was a wonderful character. He was rambunctious, devious, greedy, and yet, strangely strong and admirable at times. The fight scenes were larger than life and exciting, even if characters always avoided death. The cast of characters as a whole has been interesting, even if you have to mostly imagine up what they look like.

The second Drizzt Collection picked off where the first one left off; pretty good but not extraordinary. The villain is not very compelling, sadly, as he basically amounts to some mystical source of massive magical power being unearthed after hundreds of years dormant. Stop me if you've heard that one before. But Salvatore has an eye for breathing life into anything and everything; giving towns and people characteristics and traits that make them seem at once familiar and exotic. By the time he is done, the characters feel about as real as they can be.

In the meantime, away from literature, I have started watching several animes. I am giving Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex a third try. It sounds like something I should love. Sci-fi, cyberpunk, strong female lead, great soundtrack and atmosphere, and politics. What a show! But I have seen it through one and a half times and remained unimpressed each time. I am now on episode 8, and so far, I am finding it much better this time through. I am not sure what changed.

I also started Casshern Sins, and will be watching Megazone 23, Nitaboh, and Howl's Moving Castle in the coming days to review on the anime blog I am a part of. Megazone 23 is horrible. But, it's so bad it's funny in some respects. We'll see how it all goes. Howl's is one of my least favorite Miyazaki works, but I want to give it another shot.

My gaming side of things has been quiet still. I was playing Dissidia 012 for awhile as well as The 3rd Birthday, but now I am going dormant again. Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection and Prince of Persia HD Trilogy are in the mail, but I don't know if they will get me back into things. I guess I just find myself drifting more towards music and movies and anime and reading instead of games, when I have free time. Not sure what's up.

Oh, and the weather here sucks. It's 40F and raining. Man, I need to live somewhere tropical.

Anyways, I am not too sure why I wrote this whole thing. I was bored at work and just started rambling and decided to go with it. It's a very self-indulgent piece but I felt like writing it up. I'll spare you from reading anymore though.

-GoodEnoughForMe .

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