“The next time is the best time, we all know…” – Roxy Music, from the song “Re-Make/Re-Model”
I love the band Roxy Music, and I take those lyrics to heart. It’s a variation on the “grass is always greener” sentiment, but putting more of a temporal spin on it. As much as I might love the book I’m currently reading, my future projects always excite me more. I’m always ready to believe that the next book or series that I read will be the best yet, changing my life in ways that I can’t predict or anticipate.
And it comes down to a question of how you read, I guess. Do you play it all by ear, picking up a book randomly after finishing one, meandering slowly through whatever catches your eye? Or are you at the other end of the spectrum, planning out your books for the year ahead of time, only occasionally deviating from your path? I find myself somewhere in between, for the most part, planning out a month or so in advance the books that I’m going to read next. But I also have a few long-term projects that I hope beyond hope I’ll someday get to.
First, there are the long, challenging books. There’s JR by William Gaddis, a surreal, post-modern, all-dialogue comedic romp through the spirit of modern American capitalism. It won the National Book Award, and it’s generally regarded as a masterpiece…and all these things that make it great also make it incredibly daunting. Two other huge books in this category for me are The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton and The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa. Sometimes the only way I can get through long books like these is by reading them with a group. I think a non-regular, impromptu book club based around strategically attacking large tombs is a great way to go.
There are also genres that interest me. I know genres themselves are problematic, to say the least, but as much as genres constrain description, they also help to give you a handle on a group of similar books or authors when you’re a noob. I’ve wanted to start reading European crime novels for a while, and just recently started out with Jean-Claude Izzo’s detective noire novel, Total Chaos. It’s wonderful, everything I expected, and I plan to read more. But…as soon as I started I become even more excited about the next genre I plan to tackle: Bizarro Fiction. Bizarro is a category that takes fantasy, horror, science fiction, erotica, comedy, noire, and literary stuff, puts it all in a blender, chugs, then vomits the results onto the page. I don’t think there’s much of a market for it yet, which means its a buyers market. You can find pretty cheap Bizarro works for the kindle, things like Octopope! and They Had Goat Heads.
So, dear readers, what are your next time/best time reads? What has you excited? What projects do you find daunting and what are your methods for scaling the mountain of your literary ambition? These questions are far from rehtorical. I really could use the advice.