A Reading Kind of Day (tf)

I used to watch TV until the stations started reaching the 100’s. Then it seemed hard work. “Flipping through the channels” now took about an hour, and since you had no idea what stations were what and which ones you actually had, a TV guide was useless. Last night I discovered I get something called the “Retirement Living Network”, which from quick glance shows constant programming of really old people smiling and telling you how great it is to be old if you could just avoid, you know, getting really really sick and dying. The episode I saw was teaching the old-folk at home how to use a digital camera and upload the photos to a computer. The use of a computer was presumably was covered in another program.

I’m not sure what to think of such things. But with other networks devoted to 24 hours of game shows and old soap opera’s and movies about battered women all starring Meredith Baxter Birney…..I think it’s fair to say that television as a whole has jumped the proverbial shark. If your brain cells are on life support, a few hours of random TV pulls the plug.

So I read instead. Incessantly. Four, five books a week. On anything. That’s what’s great about books. If something, anything, catches your fancy, you can bet somebody has already sat down and written a 300 page book about it. I recently saw an add for a Circus coming to town. Who doesn’t love the Circus? I figure circus people have to be way more interesting than the rest of us. And they are. I’ve gone through a week’s worth of circus performer memoirs, and while I’m not quite ready to run off and sign up, I’m envious of their free spirits. If you want to discover how little actual living you’ve done, read about families that have made their living on the high wire for 9 generations. You’ll never sit on the couch in the same position again.

I’m big on Irish novels. Roddy Doyle. Patrick McCabe. John McGahern. Edna O’Brien. Robert Mclaim Wilson wrote 2 stunning novels (“Ripley Bogle” and “Eureka Street”) before he turned 30, and hasn’t been heard from since (I hope he’s not watching TV). I just finished reading a brilliant novel of adolescence called “Skippy Dies”….set in an all boys Catholic boarding school in Dublin. Rare are words that can make you laugh so hard you spit iced-tea out of your nose….and then drip tears into the glass a few pages on. Part of the thrill is finding books such as this. I’d never heard of it. But through the wonders of the internet and the magical “if you liked that you might like this” button, there it was. A quick look at my library’s website…..and I put the book on hold. In 2 days it was in my hand. Glorious. Cost? $0.00

I don’t like not knowing something I should know. So when I realized I had huge gaps of knowledge regarding WWI (The Civil War and WWII were sufficiently covered), I set out to rectify this with alacrity. A few dozen books later…..I wonder how nations that somehow lived through the horrors of Verdun, the Somme, or Passchendaele could possibly march off to war again. Ever. No one who does not know the past can possibly understand the world he or she is living in. The key is knowledge. We’re supposed to learn from it.

Sometimes we don’t.

But it is the key. Words make it possible. Create your own images. That’s what the best words ask you to do.

My TV requires 4 remote controls to work. I get the feeling someone is trying to tell me something. Well, I’m listening. And now I’m off again to the library.

–Tom Flannery

~ by admin on April 27, 2011.

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