A flood of books

I have at least two dozen books that I've been given or have acquired, which sit unread on my shelf. I get new books faster than I can read them. In part, this is because people give me books for my birthday and for Christmas. I'm an intelligent, curious person, so this would seem like a natural. However, I also don't read as quickly as everyone seems to think I do. I don't have as much time to devote to reading as I used to, and my rate of pages-per-hour isn't high enough to keep ahead of what I have.

Some of the books are things that other people thought I would be interested in, like the disappearing water in the American West/Southwest or the fate of one half of Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic exploration party. Others are important books by Ayn Rand and Winston Churchill, whose writing I know I will enjoy (based on skimming). Biographies, fiction, science fiction, histories, non-fiction about economics, politics, science... so many books, so little time.

One book has pretty much made itself obsolete before I read it. It's a deep-thought analysis of the emerging world economic and soci0-political structures. I got it for Christmas years ago. I'd have to check, but I believe it was written pre-9/11. It was certainly pre-Iraq, pre-world financial crisis, etc. What will it have to say that is relevant now? Maybe a lot about where the nations were, but not about where they are or where they will be. I don't have time (or inclination) to undertake a big critical analysis of geopolitics. So, skip it. Pack it away or give it away, unread.

Another one is a collection of essays which my brother-in-law was sure I would just love, and would find fascinating. He was right, I did find them fascinating when I read them as they were originally published in the New Yorker years ago. (He doesn't read the New Yorker, so they were all new to him.) There is one essay which I haven't read, since it was published in the Atlantic. Since I've already read 85% of the book, catching that one essay hasn't been tops on my list. I also did a spot check, to see if the pre-published essays were other than I recalled them. I don't think they changed any.

I want to read, and to let my kids see me reading. My sons used to love to sit and read, then they wanted to play video games all the time. This transition took place right about at the time that I started playing video games as a form of entertainment, instead of reading.

Books aren't immersive enough for me anymore. Maybe this is because I'm not reading the right kind of books, maybe because I'm so tired and distracted and depressed by work that I need something more insistently bright and flashy to keep my attention. When I read, my mind wanders to all of the crap I have to put up with at work, and I lose my thread in the story.

Last year I got movies and video games. I found a couple of chunks of time to watch the DVD, and have played the games, but not finished any of them. In response to questions from relatives, my wife told them that more books would not be a good thing for Christmas. This makes me feel really depressed. The clearest indication of an active, inquiring, intelligent mind is reading. Look at me - on my shelves I have DVDs I haven't watched, games I haven't played, books I haven't read. My kids, my wife, my job, my house - these all take up 95% of my time.

I don't read the newspaper in the morning (no time). At the end of the day, the headlines from the newspaper are obsolete, since I hear the news on the radio. I read the comics and that's it.

When I come home from work, it's time with my wife to debrief and to get briefed on what's going on with the homelife. Help get dinner, or make dinner myself. Eat with family. Read comics in newspaper. Enforce homework, dash to choir practice, evening meetings, whatever. Enforce bedtime for kids, read them a story. This takes me up to 9:00. I've got an hour to fix whatever got broken, do necessary chores, etc.

Settling down to read is hard to do.

And I want to add my little droplet to this flood? How stupid.

Who is that guy?

So if I'm being all twitchy, why post a photo? First, because normal people often post a photo of themselves when they start a blog. If I'm going to pretend that I'm a normal person, then I need to act like a normal person. Second, no one is reading this, so it doesn't matter. Third, because the photo is a particularly appropriate one for this blog, since it confirms my status as a seasoned world traveler with a lot of experiences to bring to bear on whatever I'm writing about.

The photo was taken at some Mayan ruins in Campeche, Mexico. I took the stairs all the way to the top, two at a time. It was a pretty unbelievable view, and a rather remarkable experience. These particular ruins were among the smaller ones that have been reclaimed from the forest, but still an amazing place.

Look for a change

Welcome to Landless, a place for prose. This reboot is certainly escapist and presumptuous, but it's a necessary thing, I think. There are so many things that I, wearing my writer's hat, need to be able to say with a free hand.

It's not that I'm helpless or in a rut, far from it. I am who I am, but I am also who I am known to be. Sadly, left brain and right brain activities are presumed to be mutually exclusive. Only geniuses and retirees are allowed to do both without raising suspicion, and I can lay claim to neither qualification.

It's just too complicated to say what I want to say about love, longing and loss. These are only slightly outpaced by what I'd like to say about fear, betrayal and hatred. Don't even get me started about sex and desire.