I did a lot of reading today. The line-up of library books is reaching ridiculous levels, especially now that I’ve coerced myself into checking out all 22 collections of Fables comics. That’s like, 100+ issues. All because I accidentally checked out volume 22 and therefore had to check out volumes 1-21. These are the dilemmas I create for myself. Syria burns and I’m frantic about how many books I have to read. Troubling.
(Perhaps it doesn’t help that I arrange the books in a grid on the floor, lined up based on due date and whether or not I could renew the book if necessary. It’s a very scientific arrangement. Every other day, as I knock out another comic collection or two, I shift the books around to remove spaces and keep things up to date re: due dates. It’s a soothing task, like washing the dishes or brushing your teeth. The kind of functional “part of everyday existence” task that calms the mind. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have the floor space.)
I walked the Ice Age trail to the library, powering through a pair of graphic histories. “Graphic” as in “illustrated in a comic style,” not necessarily filled with blood and gore. Well, I take that back – they were about the Normandy invasion and the final battles of the Civil War, so there was a decent amount of blood and gore. Fascinating stuff, though, maybe overly technical, probably not enough maps, but I was engaged. In between histories, I polished off Sexcastle, an 80s action romp stuffed into a graphic novel. It was dumb fluff, but I smiled. The hike was gorgeous, as always, fall colors and drifting clouds catching my eye whenever the words on the page weren’t. Wearing flip-flops for a four mile walk was probably a poor choice, but, much like my issue with the Fables comics, I put myself in that position by forgetting to bring walking shoes to work and being too dead set on hiking to the library to change course. Whatever. The calluses make me feel more masculine anyway.
At home, I turned to a pair of books that were ostensibly next on the list, albeit with radically different levels of hype. That is, I really wanted to read one book and was fairly indifferent to the other. Both of them were lying on the floor in the “due soon” section, though, so I was in no way capable of holding myself back from devouring either one.
Low, by Rick Remender, with simply jaw-dropping illustrations by Greg Tocchini, was a lightning rod for imaginative spark. I mean, I didn’t immediately start writing my own novel after finishing the volume. But my brain was buzzing. That feeling only comes so often, you know? Even if I don’t take advantage of it, simply experiencing it makes the night special. I can look over at my bookshelf of actually purchased books and see the other collections that have made me feel similarly – and there aren’t that many. Maybe twenty volumes. And I’ve read far more than that in the past few years.
That was the book I was looking forward to, by the way. In case you couldn’t tell. I’d glanced at the cover (and a few interior pages) enough to feel relatively certain that the art style, at least, would rev my engine. And Rick Remender is often a powerful writer (now one of my favorites, definitely). So I had high expectations – and they were firmly met. 10/10 A++ will read again.
Then I read Honor Girl, by Maggie Thrash. She’s a Rookie correspondent, so she’s got the whole “voice of our generation” thing down. The graphic memoir was about her time at a summer camp in 1999 as a fifteen year old. Having not read the interior flap, I knew basically nothing about the premise. Nonetheless, I was nonplussed when the book turned out to be about her burgeoning lesbian interests. Risque! No, but really, as Ira Glass noted in the flavor text, I’m neither a fifteen year old girl, nor a lesbian, but the memoir nevertheless tugged the shit out of my emotional heart chords. Like, I understood those feelings of confusion and uncertainty and, most universally, fear of missing out. I think I experienced all of that in my teens, just in other ways – and I still experience that to some degree. It was the kind of book that I put down and thought, “I could write something like that.” Because, you know, I was a teenager too. I was anguished once. In love. Hurt. Lost.
Two books, two separate but strong feelings of “maybe I should write.” But incomplete feelings. Not like, “I need to write a space opera” or “I should write about that time I had my heart broken at prom.” (Although maybe I should write about the latter someday, that’s kind of an interesting story.) Not specific writing urges, just a general need to place words on a white screen. Which I’m now doing. And have done for several paragraphs. Is this success then? Am I feeling like I’ve let something out? I don’t know. But I’ve had two emotional, thrilling, heartbreaking, overwhelming reading experiences tonight and it’s left me feeling a bit crazy.
Or maybe it’s just the two cups of coffee I had after dinner. Either way, big night.