Wednesday, June 16, 2010

v2, d97: An Unexpected Delight

Not "unexpected" in the sense that I didn't think it would happen today, but "unexpected" in that, a year ago, I wouldn't have expected to get such joyful serenity out of the activity.

Lately I've been spending half or more of my lunch break going out for a jog*, but today I forgot to bring a spare T-shirt so that was obviously out of the question. I needed to drop a book off at the library and pick up some "On Hold's" for Kim, and I had planned to just drive by there and run in and out at the end of my break, but since I had nothing else to do I decided to walk the couple blocks down to the library and spend some time there.

Up until this past year, it had been a long, LONG while since I spent any real time or energy reading. Then, about a year ago, I decided it was time to broaden my horizons, so I asked all of Facebook for suggestions and put together a list of books, most of which I'd never heard of, and started through it. It was a good move, because I'd spent so long away from recreational reading that I didn't even know where to start, how to find a book for myself.

Through reading a bunch of things I probably wouldn't have read on my own, I've picked up the knack for A) finding something to read without any help or suggestions from an outside party, B) taking risks reading/appreciating something that seems out of my experience/genre of choice, and C) making numbered lists/using slashes to break up sentences.

Thus, going to the library without anything particular in mind has become a quiet, peaceful sort of joy. Browsing the spines, the titles, the authors, taking out the occasional book to skim the inner-flap, thinking that every single one of these books was written, at one point in time, by a living, breathing, passionate artist with a personality and character quirks and literary flaws and strengths. Now that I've written a rough draft of a total of one novel and am in planning stages for one or two more, I no longer look at a book and see a cover with pages and typewritten words. Each one is a part of someone's life, a party they've chosen to share. Each book needs to be read to be validated. Every title quietly calls out, "Pick me! Pick me!" and behind its voice the author's grinning black-and-white photo secretly hopes that I'll step out of my world and into theirs for a few hours.

I can empathize with that.

Suddenly, I don't just see an overwhelming deluge of words and ideas, I see choices. Possibilities! Potentially hours of enjoyment followed by a fond recollection that will last as long as my mind can call it forth. Potentially a long, boring, offensive, trite piece of trash that will leave a bad taste in my mouth until I wash it out with something a bit fresher or an old favorite. Regardless, the material sandwiched within each cover offers me an experience created between the author's genius and my own experiences and expectations, something that we can only create together (to echo Orson Scott Card).

I am shopping. Not this one, not this one, this looks interesting, but not right before I leave for vacation. Maybe later. Here, this one is worth a gamble...

I have friends who love shopping for something specific. For some (usually women), it's shoes, clothing, purses maybe. For others, it's music, movies, trying to find something new, something fresh, something indie, before everyone jumps on the bandwagon. The process holds as much (or more) joy than the result. It's never been a concept I've ever really identified with, to be honest. Today, however, I think I realized that I do get it after all.

Perhaps my transition to English nerd is complete. Who'd have thought. The quiet time spent among the rows of books, authors, stories, and ideas is both soothing and exhilarating. It's a peaceful place to me. It's an active place. An unexpected delight.

For the record, I picked up a couple of novels I am going to try to finish before I leave for my vacation next week. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by vampire-novelist-turned-Catholic-Biblical-fiction-writer-extraordinaire Anne Rice was an unusual choice. I don't usually go for those "early childhood of Christ" type stories--which is exactly why I thought I ought to give it a try. It claims to be based on the gospels and most respected New Testament scholars. An early review claims it presents Jesus as "nature mystic, healer, prophet, and very much a real young boy" who is "grappling to understand his miraculous gifts and numinous birth." My initial reaction is skepticism, as I sometimes feel that we lose the reality of God in our romantic fantasies of His stories (and trying to craft them in our own image), but I'm acknowledging my bias at the front end of the story so that I can better lay it down to see what the novel is really about. I also picked up Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, because I think King has such an incredible imagination and the gutsy ability to say "reality be damned!" when his story calls for it. Plus, a friend is currently reading this, and I don't often get to discuss a book with someone who's finished it within, say, a month of my first read of it. I enjoy that experience.

Anyway, there you have it. My delightful lunch break, spending half an hour at the library and then half an hour blogging about it.

I'm curious: what are your unexpected delights? What things absolutely make your day in a manner that you would have never expected a year or two or three ago?

*accidentally typed "going out for a job" not once, but twice. Slip?*