Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Behind the Scenes at the Game of Reading

Reaction to The Game of Reading among friends of the blog has ranged from thinking it’s a mildly cool idea to a malicious hope that I will trap myself into a joyless, grinding reading experience. Let’s see how things are going!

After last time, I had these cards in my hand:
  • 5 "Any New Book" cards from the starting hand
  • an "Unrestricted New Book" card (which is the same thing)
  • "Non-Fiction"
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (cool!)
  • How Literature Works (eh!)
  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum (cool!)
And I was worried that it might be hard to keep a steady flow of usable cards for “ear-reading” on audio. Since I will probably want to re-read on paper the books that I listened to the first time around, and because audio reading is faster than eye-reading, I could easily end up without any cards to play on audiobooks if I’m not careful. It would be easy to get trapped with a backlog of ten cards, all of which needed to be played on paper books.

That was the state of play when I finished listening to the surprisingly not-Japanese Howl’s Moving Castle (**** -- 4 of 5 stars on GoodReads), a charming young adult fantasy, on July 6. I burned one of my precious free cards to wallow in detective fiction, firing up Ngaio Marsh’s Death of a Fool (***).
  • Card played: 00 - "Any New Book"
  • Card drawn: 464 – Re-read something from before you were on GoodReads
I knew immediately what I wanted to do with that draw, so the next morning I plucked Italo Calvino’s 1980 landmark If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (****) from the stack under my night table.
  • Card played: 464 – Re-read something from before you were on GoodReads
  • Card drawn: 75 – Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey #6)
On consultation with a bookish associate, I decided to invoke the serial fiction option and read a different Wimsey mystery, one I haven’t already read, and to read it by eye. I reserved it from the library, and went to work on the Calvino.

A few days into the Calvino, a book that I had been looking forward to – How Not to Write a Novel (***) – came in at the library. I jumped into it immediately!
  • Card played: 381 - "Non-Fiction"
  • Card drawn: 396 - "Non-Fiction"
…which meant I still had a non-fiction card in the hand when I finished the Ngiao Marsh and needed a new audiobook. I didn't want to burn any more free cards, so I needed to listen to something that wasn’t, like, pretend. The only immediately available non-fiction title was Atul Gawande’s somber Being Mortal (*****).
  • Card played: 396 - "Non-Fiction"
Time out! Did you notice what just happened there? I had wanted to read Being Mortal for about half a year, but never got around to it. Why not? Because there is always something relatively light-hearted around that can give you an excellent excuse to put off an exploration of the nature of death in our society! But since the structure of the game is based on my theoretically mature and sophisticated long-term reading goals, instead of my demonstrable short-term reading sweet tooth, it pushed me into choosing something Good For Me. THE SYSTEM WORKS!!!
  • Card drawn: 521 – Return One Card to Deck, Draw Two
Hurray! I could get rid of the book that, as I saw immediately when I checked it out from the library, was even worse than I remembered!
  • Discarded: 20 - How Literature Works  (**)
  • Replacement cards: 202 – Strip Jack (Inspector Rebus #4) and 25 – Otto: the Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
Drawing the Rebus card gave me an obvious light fiction – well, light grim fiction – choice for audio, once I was done learning about death.
  • Card played: 202 – Inspector Rebus #10, Dead Souls
  • Card drawn: 159 – Eragon.
I’m not really sure I remember what Eragon was, or why I read it in the first place. But, that’s all part of the re-reading experiment.

Otto (****) is a child’s book, but a good one.
  • Card played: 25 – Otto: the Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
  • Card drawn: 221 – Nice Work
After finishing If on a Winter’s Night I started Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum (*****). It is magnificent.
  • Card played: 136 - Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
  • Card drawn: 502 – Ask Morgan
Morgan’s choice was Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, a book that I’ve always kind of felt like I should read. THE SYSTEM WORKS!!! Also, it is available on audiobook. Hurrah!

However, it wasn’t instantly available in audiobook, so I had to burn another free card to get something to listen to. I figured I’d use it on something Good For Me, and chose the second book of Laurence Durrell’s monumental, universally respected, and insufferable Alexandria Quartet.
  • Card played: 00 – Any New Card.
  • Card drawn: 344 – Unrestricted New Book
But it turns out that Balthazar (**), bless its heart, is quite a short little thing. Knowing I would need to burn another free card, but also that audiobook help is more or less on the way, I decided to pick something that would not only be Good For Me, that would not only satisfy my sweet tooth, but that would also last a long time: The Duke’s Children, the last of Anthony Trollope’s six Palliser novels.
  • Card played: 00 – Any New Card.
  • Card drawn: 213 – Jane Eyre
Finally, finishing the Atkinson, I relaxed into some good old-fashioned Wimsey.
  • Card played: 75 – Have His Carcase. (Lord Peter Wimsey #8)
  • Card drawn: 135 – A Thousand Acres
Although I praised Jane Smiley’s agricultural setting of King Lear the first time I read it, I praised it awfully faintly, and I confess my heart sank a little to see it come up in my hand now.  But, the point of a game is that it has turns of fate and challenges to be overcome, is it not?

The State of Play

Well, I’ve had a program of summer reading that has been enriching and brought joy to my life!

My current hand seems to be resolving the audio-vs-paper problem pretty nicely. In addition to four unrestricted books, I’ve got three books slated to eye-read: The Hemingway, the Smiley (alas, not available on audio), and Eragon, which I apparently listened to last time. But I’ve also got two books for ear-reading, the Feynman and Jane Eyre (which I eye-read last time). Nice Work, a David Lodge book, could go either way, and is part of a trilogy to boot. So I have plenty of options there.

Basically, I’m totally winning this game so far.

And You?

Read any good books lately?


Nichim said...

Your ear-reading is faster than your eye-reading?

mrs.5000 said...

Heh! Yes, now you need to do a whole post about your ear-reading, to explain how you can go through books so very quickly. (Don't worry, Nichim, it's not that he's struggling to sound out the words when he reads from a printed page.)

Morgan said...

I assume it's something along the lines of "I can ear-read while driving, but would be ill-advised to eye-read in the same situation."

Michael5000 said...

Well, I'm not the fastest from-the-page reader. But more to the point, I can ear-read while running, exercising (other), doing household chores, gardening, cooking, cleaning, experiencing insomnia, and possibly other situations, but would be more or less ill-advised to eye-read in the same circumstances. Also sew (machine and hand), shop, travel by bus, train, or airplane, stand in lines, wait for appointments, and mow the lawn. Basically I really like listening to books. Ever so much nicer than unmediated experience of reality, don't you agree?

UnwiseOwl said...

You know I'm always in for a somewhat over the top book reading project.
Long may it continue.
I haven't been keeping up with the blog all year, but I wish I had been.