I’m at that indescribably delicious time – just having turned in a novel AND a novella and not having gotten revision notes yet – in which theoretically I could read anything I wanted right now. Anything. Not for research, not for plot problems, not to make sure that my new project hasn’t been co-opted by a recent bestseller (although maybe that’s more of a screenwriting paranoia than a real author concern).
No, I can read anything I want to right now. In fact I better start reading something pretty soon or all those “shoulds” are going to start whispering at me. “You really should do your taxes while you can, or you’ll be scrambling in September.” “You really should update your mailing list before the anthology comes out.” “You really should organize your office so you can at least walk in the damn door.” You know – the “shoulds”.
Or what might happen – as did yesterday, a national holiday, I might point out – is that Michael will get caught up in something, which in this case delayed our river outing for a couple of hours, and I could have been reading and instead that OCD voice started whispering and I ended up writing four pages on the new book before he came home and dragged me out.
Not that that’s a BAD thing – but I’m one of those people who doesn’t relax well so enforced relaxation is important for continued mental health (recklessly assuming that health has anything at all to do with my mental state).
And it’s not like – heh – I don’t have enough books around the house to choose from. In fact, just having come from ALA, I have a brand new stack of ARCs, and there’s that TBR shelf of my friends’ books which in the last two years has morphed past “shelf” through “bookcase” into “bookcases” and on into “room”. I overheard Michael talking on the phone to the architect of our new old house that he’s renovating, and he said, “Look, basically, would you just put a bookcase anywhere there’s space?”
(So when you hear people joking about building a house for their books – IT’S NOT A JOKE).
But I’m having a hard time settling on a book. Now, I admit I often read a dozen books at a time – which is maybe why I can’t relate to the authors who say they can’t read books in their genre while they’re writing because they’ll start picking up on someone else’s style. Not a concern when you’re reading a dozen styles in an hour. But while I have this (relatively) guilt-free time that I could be reading, I’d really like to just sink into a book, one book, and lose myself in that way… you know, that way that made us all become authors to begin with.
I guess you could call them guilty-pleasure reads. Or comfort reads. Or binge-reads. Or maybe that’s the entire definition of “beach read”.
I think for me a binge-read is something that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I write (even though, of course, great writing is always an inspiration for writing). In the past (and I have to admit, still) it’s been Ayn Rand – THE FOUNTAINHEAD followed by ATLAS SHRUGGED and WE THE LIVING (if I’m really on a binge). Sometimes I’ll sit down and reread the entire LITTLE HOUSE series, or Jane Austen. I’ve had more binges than I can count on a YA series from the 50’s by Leonora Mattingly Weber – the Beany Malone series, and going to Denver for Left Coast Crime made me want to reread that all over again. It’s been a while, but I used to binge on Louisa May Alcott, and maybe that’s just what I need right now – in fact, I could throw in that biography that I’ve been hearing so much about as well. Madeleine L’Engle – at least once a year. Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR (maybe because I don’t think I’ve ever read the whole thing – so I keep finding interesting new things about it.). It might be time again for a Bronte binge.
Now, those are binge reads I’ve had for years and years and years. More recently, Ann Patchett and Lionel Shriver and Barbara Kingsolver have been satisfying binges for me.
But you know who really, really does it for me when I need a binge? Anne Rivers Siddons. Not in my genre at all, except for her classic ghost story THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, but I discovered that one after I’d worked my way through nearly all of her beach read Southern women’s fiction (which is I think what she writes, but it’s so out of my own genre I don’t even know what to call it.). Siddons writes about the South from the 1920’s to the present, sometimes in family epics, sometimes in women’s lit (wife finding her husband in bed with a younger woman, and consequently finding herself), sometimes in historical stories about the vast social changes of the 1960’s. No matter what she’s writing about she had a certain languid – maybe I should say Southern – eroticism, and a keen sense of history and social and emotional dynamics and she’s a smashingly good writer – you just lose yourself in whatever she writes. I’m particularly hankering after a book called COLONY, in which the Charleston heroine marries a Boston banker and becomes the unwelcome fish-out-of-water in a colony of Boston Brahmins on the Maine coast. When I write that synopsis I just want to laugh because it is SO not my kind of thing on the surface, but somehow Siddons’ writing just hits all my pleasure centers.
(I don’t think I’ll even get into the fact that I’m now the fish-out-of-water living with a Southern man from a summer beach colony and with a whopping family saga of his own…)
So even though in this precious down time I’d love to find a book that I haven’t read before that would completely take me away from all this, I think I might just mosey over to my Siddons shelf today.
But I’m also up for suggestions for something new to take me away. What are YOUR binge reads?
Happy holiday to everyone…