Maybe I'm being stupid about this, but I have pretty-much given up reading fiction. I don't have the time or the patience for it.
I get bored quickly by fiction that doesn't at least TRY to be real, that is merely daydreaming, escapist junk-food for the brain, that fails to address the world I see around me every day -- millions of people out of work, who knows how many homeless people, stressed-out folks who never sleep, crazy people on the street every hour of the day and night, people who spend more time with their smartphones than with their spouse or kids, crimes and guns everywhere, terrorist attacks all over the place, people constantly yelling and screaming in frustration, people constantly drinking and drugging themselves because they can't take it....
You'd think the LAST thing I'd want would be more of this.
But it seems like any writing that doesn't at least notice that it's a big, ugly world out there doesn't work for me.
I can't remember the last time I made it all the way through a novel -- was it really Brian Aldiss's BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES a couple years ago?
My favorite trick for years has been to get 50 to 100 pages into a novel and then give up because it isn't moving fast enough. Writers like Thomas Harris, Jack Ketchum and Kathe Koja spoiled me a long time ago. I didn't USED to have such a short attention span....
I recently got halfway through Paul Theroux's HOTEL HONOLULU, which I thought was a really great series of character sketches. Too bad he had to force a STORY in there.... True, I did re-read Theroux's novels MY SECRET HISTORY and MY OTHER LIFE this past fall, but those are almost like autobiographies, very direct.
Maybe I need to go back to Max Barry -- he was pretty edgy....
I used to read people like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling when I wanted to feel "caught up" with Reality. But I tried Gibson's IDORU and ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES and they just don't work for me. The last Sterling novels I was able to get through were ZEITGEIST and HEAVY WEATHER. Both four-star worthy. But I tried HOLY FIRE and DISTRACTION and ISLANDS IN THE NET -- no go.
Neal Stephenson? Well, SNOW CRASH was a lot of fun, had everything you'd ever want except a good ending. But I gave up 100 pages into CRYPTONOMICON. And since then he's written several books that are even LONGER. I'm about a decade past the point where I could get through a 1,000-page novel. Hell, it took me FOUR MONTHS to read Stephen King's IT back in 1987 -- and that was when I was INTERESTED. And I haven't been able to read King in YEARS....
I even read a couple short stories recently. Mildly interesting ideas, reasonably clever. But they were just notions -- they showed no signs of a real, lived-in life. And all I could think was that they were JUST LIKE something I might have written myself at age 19....
I tried reading some travel writing for awhile, and that worked out OK when Paul Theroux was writing it, or the silly J. Maarten Troost. But some other folks waste too much time for me. Redmond O'Hanlon is mildly funny, and I admire his adventurousness. But he needs an editor. And some others are even duller.
I LOVE to read. I WANT to be affected, impacted, have my face rubbed into something -- I WANT to be involved, I want to be ripped up by a story. And that hasn't happened to me in a long time.
Maybe this is just another sign that I should be writing my own fiction, that I'll never be satisfied until I do. Ghod help me. Wishing you had a story to write won't make it so.
My old buddy Rastro over at La Historia de la Musica Rock may have some comment on this -- he often seems to be reading current, cutting-edge stuff, and has reviewed a couple of fairly new novels over the last month.
I want to be grabbed by the throat. I want to be riveted. I'm sick of being bored. I just hope this isn't another one of the joys of GETTING OLDER.
Advice? Suggestions? Recommendations?