There is hardly a more pleasurable activity to be undertaken than reading. A good book has a unique way of removing one's brain from its current set of perturbations and dropping it gently on the lush, soft grass of knowledge. I don't even have to learn anything or be stunned by genius, though I have. What I do require is something that holds my attention and does so in an eloquent, witty or provoking manner. To that end, I recommend the works of the esteemed chef, television host, writer, rabblerouser, former drug addict and globetrotter prophet Anthony Bourdain.
I've only read two of his books, but now plan on reading the rest, which include a couple of novels. The man has a gift with words. Being a fan of his Travel Channel show, "No Reservations," and knowing well his cigarette-addled, sarcasm-laced, NYC-bred, kitchen-heat patina'd voice, I can hear him read to me as my eyes move over the page. It's a rare advantage to have while reading a funny, engaging and moving book - when else in our reading lives (you all have reading lives, I hope...) are we able to immediately conjure the text before us in so singular a voice? It's not like old scratchy tape of Shakespeare reading sonnets exists out there in the ether. If it did, it would be expensive and utterly underwhelming. Of that fact I am sure.
If ever you get the chance to listen to, purchase or memorize the oral music of your favorite writers reading from their works, please indulge yourself. I have had the opportunity to listen to recordings of one of my writerly idols, the poet Adrienne Rich, read what may be my favorite poem, "Diving Into the Wreck." Until I heard her read it, it was as if I had never heard it at all. Her cadence is forever seared into my cortex, and I am glad. Next month, I will have the second and hopefully more personal opportunity to hear her read. Or at least talk. She's coming to Milwaukee, and I couldn't be more excited.
How excited? Let me put it this way. I was in Rome and could have stood under Pope Benedict's window in Vatican City to hear him give noon Mass in 15 languages. Not an experience many people can say they had a shot at having. What did I do instead? Got on a double-decker tour bus with a nice couple from Washington and saw a hell of a lot more of Rome than can be seen from Benedict's window. But Adrienne Rich coming to your city? I would sell my left arm, leg, kidney and most of my soul just to be in the same room as her.
You get my point: Read. Listen. Enjoy. Repeat.
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