Friday, February 01, 2008


Yipes, January 2008 is already past, and I posted only one blog entry in the entire month. Somehow time got away from me. I hope to make up for it in February.

Rather than focusing on a single topic today, I have a miscellany of comments.

It's now Carnival Time in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is extremely early this year--Tuesday, February 5. Because it's right in mid-winter, there's been a lot of rain and cold weather (well, cold for New Orleans--to us, anything under 60 degrees is cold). Already a number of parades were rained out. (Most of them were rescheduled to other days and nights, sometimes resulting in as many as four parades rolling one after the other.) Tonight (Friday, February 1) starts the really intense weekend that leads up to Fat Tuesday itself. Hotels are 90% full and will be 100% by Tuesday. Our favorite saying here is Laissez les bons temps rouler, that is, "Let the good times roll!"--not grammatically correct French, but idiomatic Cajun French.

I no longer go out to the parades myself; my physical problems preclude walking distances or standing for any length of time, both of which are necessary if you want to watch parades. Now I stay at home and watch it on TV. I'll spend Mardi Gras day at a friend's home, playing Trivial Pursuit and eating junk food. Maybe I'll wear a mask and wig to stay in the spirit of the day.

I posted in early December about my fractured wrist. The cast was removed three weeks ago and the fracture's healing nicely. I'm astonished by how much range of motion I lost simply by having it immobilized for five weeks. Unfortunately, it's my dominant hand, too. I'm taking occupational therapy sessions to regain full use of the wrist. I sit in my recliner chair at night, doing wrist exercises while reading and watching TV.

And here a segue: For most of my life I have spent little time watching TV, a residual of my childhood--when I became a bookworm to escape the constant battles between my brother and sister over which channel to watch on the family TV. I've gone through life oblivious to television programs that were cultural icons for others. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, however, I've found myself watching TV more and more, especially news programs and sitcoms. My TV time increased so much during the past year that I began scheduling my activities around my favorite programs.

I assume the TV addiction was a reaction to some extreme stress I underwent in 2007. Perhaps my brain needed rest.

As a result of the Hollywood writers' strike, however, my favorite shows went into rerun mode early, due to lack of scripts. After going months with having read very few books, a couple of months ago I started reading again. Since November I've averaged about a book a week--a low rate compared to my former reading pace, but an improvement over the preceding months. I've decided to start keeping a list of what I read this year, encouraged by the lists of my blog buddies Charles Gramlich, Tim Hallinan, and Lisa Kenney. I wish now I'd kept a list all my life--it would be cool to look back over the years and remember my past by what I was reading.

It would be hard to match the books-read list of Art Garfunkel, however, at least for sheer duration. He's been keeping his list for almost 40 years, beginning in June 1968. In that time he's read 1023 books, as The New Yorker recently reported in "Lists: The King of Reading," by Nick Paumgarten, January 28, 2008. The article says this works out to an average of 2.16 books per month. The article mentions some of the books on the list--most of them classics or "serious" literature (e.g., Foucault, Balzac, Heidegger, Spinoza, Hazlitt, Milton, Proust), with the occasional foray into popular literature or humor (e.g., Chesterton, Dan Brown). In general, however, Garfunkel says he doesn't read "fluff":

The list contains just—just—enough low- or middle-brow work to suggest sincerity. In the spring of 1996, between “Flaubert in Egypt” and “I, Claudius,” he took on “You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again,” by Robin, Liza, Linda, and Tiffany. In February, 2004, he gave Dan Brown a go before returning to Flaubert and Aristophanes. He has read several books by the actress Carrie Fisher, one of Simon’s ex-wives, as well as “Simon and Garfunkel: The Definitive Biography” (in May, 1998, two years after it was published, and just before moving on to Plato and Locke).

“I avoid fluff,” Garfunkel explained last week, on the phone from a Marriott in Florida. “The stuff that men are always reading on planes: I don’t read that.” He also doesn’t read postmodern fiction—the Garfunkel Library contains no Pynchon or Barthelme. “I tried ‘Gravity’s Rainbow,’ and I thought it was fraudulent,” he said.

“I read for the reading pleasure, not for the gold star,” he went on.

IMO, Garfunkel shouldn't be called the King of Reading--2.16 books per month isn't much. Many people I know read more than that every week; I know of some people who read a book or more per day. Garfunkel may be King of Books-Read-List Keeping, however, to have faithfully maintained his list for four decades. If you'd like to see the entire list, it's on his website.


Lana Gramlich said...

THERE you are! I'd wondered if the New Year's Resolution Fairy had come & whisked you away! Glad you're healing. :)

Lisa said...

I'm so glad to see you back! I found Art Garfunkle's reading list at some point too and I was just amazed at the span of time it encompassed. In some ways, the number of "hard" books he's tackled is impressive, but in other ways it's surprising that he hasn't included more of a variety. I tend to go through phases with my reading --- about 25 years ago I was in my serial killer phase and it started creeping people out after a while!

I started keeping a list last year and then I really liked Tim's idea of tracking them in more detail, month to month. I also liked his New Year's resolutions about reading, so I'm working on trying to find more writers who write the way I'd like to and I'm trying to incorporate some more non-fiction and biography.

By the way -- did I say how nice it is to see you back?

Timothy Hallinan said...

Hi, again -- I'm part of the small army who are glad you're back in action.

I read the Garfunkel list and it confirmed my opinion that he's a twit. "The kind of books guys read on planes; I don't read those." Jeez. You'd think he'd been the interesting half of the duo, not just the tall one with the Eraserhead hair.

Can't wait to see your list. And I hope all is great with you.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, glad you're healing. As for Garfunkle's list, a lot of tougher books on there. I'm not sure I believe his "reads for fun" statement. I've been keeping my list since my teens, which would be at least 30 years, but unfortunately only began listing it by years in 1987. That still gives me 20 years of averages and I've averaged better than 70 books a year in that time. I wish I would have kept a record of the times when I read specific books, though.

Shauna Roberts said...

Glad you're back online!

Sphinx Ink said...

Lana, Lisa, Tim, Charles and Shauna, thank you all for commenting. It's heartwarming to be missed. I'm glad to hear from you. I hope to be a more regular blogger henceforth.