Monday, February 20, 2012

Just a Little Junk

Yesterday, an article appeared in the New York Times that echoed my feelings about reading these days. Dominique Browning writes that she has discovered that she does better on airplane trips reading "junk books" instead of Great Literature or even nonfiction.  She finds that works of George R. R. Martin, Sara Paretsky, Patricia Cornwell, P. D. James, Sue Grafton, Faye Kellerman, John Mortimer and Ruth Rendell allow her to avoid or deal with the unpleasantness of modern air travel characterized by its "herding, shuffling, squeezing, starving, sitting and suffocating".

I too have guiltily discovered the joys of junk books recently.  I too can get immersed in Ruth Rendell and feel somewhat empty at the end although I enjoyed it as I was consuming it.  My other recent junk books of choice include Michael Connolly books, particularly the Harry Bosch books which were recommended to me by a former California Supreme Court justice, and a Ken Follett book, Eye of the Needle.  I have also dabbled in John LeCarre books and raced through the  Hunger Games series (not to be confused with another junk series  that started with Game of Thrones).

However, where I deviate from Browning is the location for reading these books.  I tend to consume junk books either at home or in the car.  In fact, I find that I am able to read more serious books on an airplane, probably because I can not be distracted by the siren call of the internet.   I used to try to listen to nonfiction in the car but soon discovered that it is harder to follow nonfiction while driving than a well narrated fiction book.  And when I am home at night after reading "serious stuff" all day at work, a nice mystery can take the edge off and keep me away from the internet.

I know it is pejorative to call some of these books "junk".  I do not mean to offend those who read these as a steady diet.  Understand that this is my problem.  I feel the need to educate and enrich myself all the time and quite frankly the junk books are just good entertainment rather than enrichment.  Thus I feel guilty, which Browning also seems to feel, about too much indulgence in junk books which leave you feeling full but not really nourished. So I continue to slog through complicated nonfiction and sometimes even Literature but occasionally I crave a visit with Harry Bosch.  Oh, and if John Mortimer's Rumpole books qualify as junk, I should look into taking those up again.

P.S.  I am listening to Don Quixote (Edith Grossman translation) on audio disc in the car these days.  Sometimes I yearn for Ruth Rendell but I am enjoying the book for the most part.  It makes me laugh at times.  Not bad for what is reportedly the most meaningful book ever written and the one novel you should read before you die.  Substance and entertainment.  What a concept.