27 September 2014

My new reality - catching up on the world of reading

I've been back to work for two full weeks now. It is amazing how good it feels to be busy all day. The second day of getting up at 6:30 in the morning I thought "oh god no". But then I reminded myself how billions of other people have to get up every morning as well. I was just part of that club again. Believe it or not, that actually worked. The other thing that propels me out of bed in the morning is looking forward to my 30 minutes of audio book listening on my commute.

Audio Books
Yes, after all your suggestions, I did indeed download an audio book for my commute. Most of you know I don't think that audio book listening is reading and I have had a bit of an attitude about them as a result. But, I must say I love listening and it really makes the time fly. It even keeps me calmer in traffic. A few things have made it work for me. One, I chose a book I have already read, Nevil Shute's In the Wet. I have been wanting to reread it for some time now. This gives me the perfect opportunity to visit the story again. Two, I chose a book with a really straightforward narrative. My mind wanders too easily. I need something that keeps moving forward. Three, the audio book app has a feature where with one tap you can go back 30 seconds. This has proven very helpful when I tune out momentarily to switch lanes or something similarly captivating.

I can't believe how much I love audio books. What a revelation.

Revisiting a corny, elitist, and utter delightful dystopian screed
As I mentioned, the book I am listening to is Nevil Shute's In the Wet. As a piece of literature it is so problematic and certainly not Shute's tightest work. When the exact same information gets repeated about 20 minutes after the first time you hear it, you know there was a sleeping editor somewhere. Then again it was the 1950s, maybe he was drunk after a long Mad Men style lunch.

Shute, unhappy with the direction the UK was headed after WWII emigrated to Australia. And this book is his 'Fuck You' to dear old England. The novel centers around an opium-induced hallucinogenic flash to the future of the 1980s. Shute imagines an England where the socialist governments have turned everything the country into a sad, joyless, drab, corrupt, shameful, decaying mess. A million people a year emigrating to other parts of the Commonwealth. Rationing (forty years after the war) so bad that people haven't seen pineapples or hams for years. And the Royal family more or less gets run out of town, at least temporarily. On the other hand, Australia is everything England isn't. Prosperous and plenteous and run by fine men--not the idiotic, illiterate union bosses running and ruining England.

Oh, and toss in the repeated, casual use of one of the most reprehensible words in the English language and you have yourself a book. Shute was clearly a racist, but not in the KKK kind of way, but in the highly paternalistic, everyone know your place, isn't he articulate, kind of way. We could discuss how much difference there truly is between these two types, but I will defend Shute a tiny bit on this aspect of his character. At least against the virulent and violent types.

Anyhoo, one of the things I had forgotten about was how Shute imagines a voting system that was adopted in in Australia in the 1960s where one person can have up to seven votes in electing the government. The ways one can obtain those seven votes really sums up Shute's elitist outlook. I may have the exact order slightly wrong...

First vote: Everyone 21 or older gets at least one vote

Second vote: Education. A college degree or becoming a commissioned officer in the military gets you a second vote.

Third vote: Foreign travel. Making your living for two years abroad gives you another vote. Many who fought in WWII got this one.

Fourth vote: Family. Raising two children to the age of 14 without divorcing gets you a fourth vote. I guess after 14 divorce isn't traumatic or disruptive. And what about single people? Nope.

Fifth vote: Achievement. This translates to money. If you make at least 5,000 pounds a year you get another vote.

Sixth vote: Religion. For religious officials, vicars, or anyone who does a "real" job for a "Christian" church.

Seventh vote: Given purely at the pleasure of the monarch.

Can. You. IMAGINE. such a system? Would it be better or worse than the unelected oligarchs who currently buy our politicians?

At any rate I am only about a third of the way through the book. The narrator is quite slow and just about as corny as Shute's writing. But still quite enjoyable. Listening to the book I was reminded of how I skimmed the beginning of the book when I read it. It really just sets up a vehicle for the hallucination, but it takes Shute so long to do it. After not skimming through this part in the audio version, I can guarantee you that you could easily skip it and get to the interesting bits and not miss a thing.

And I haven't even gotten to the part where our protagonist flies HM and the Duke from one Commonwealth country to another when it is deemed too dangerous for them to stay in the UK. That part of the story dovetails nicely with Shute's fascination for aeroplanes and engineering in general. How can you not love a book that uses the word aerodrome?

I played a bit of the book for John and he, who already had a dubious opinion of much of my reading material, was a bit nonplussed at how ridiculous and mundane it is. I guess he just didn't really get the significance of the pineapple scene. And I get John's criticisms. But I still love this book. A fascinating story but so ridiculous in so many ways and I love it. I want to make it into a film. Most of you would hate this book. But some of you would love it.

I can't wait for my Monday commute so I can continue the story.

Books at lunch
We've had some nice weather so I didn't fully grasp that my new work situation doesn't really offer much in the way of locations for lunch time reading. Hmm. But then I noticed that I am only about five blocks from the central library for Arlington County. Cool. A sandwich at my desk, a seven-minute walk, and then 45 minutes at the library. Could be a whole lot worse.

Catching up
Having a job that is writing intensive makes blogging, and social media, and reading blogs, and replying to email, and just about everything else that's not TV a little more difficult to get to. No doubt I will find a pattern. And hopefully sometime soon I will have a chance to recap what I have been reading (and not listening to) lately.


  1. Congrats on your new job. I think we all tend to complain about our jobs and going to work, but in the end "routine" is a welcomed feeling an ultimately rewarding. I think that's very cool that you get a 14 min rt walk and 45 min reading time each day - the best of both worlds. enjoy

  2. Congrats on your new job! Life changes always cause a momentary blip in my reading, but -- super-organized man that you are -- I see you are working your reading in nicely!

  3. I knew you'd come around to audiobooks eventually ;-)


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