Saturday, February 11, 2006

addictions, art, and the ovine

Occasionally someone will catch me curled up with a novel at some improbable time, like 8 am before a rehearsal, or 11 pm after a concert, and compliment my "admirable" reading habits - as though I were gulping down vitamins or writing a check to Greenpeace. Of course I'll thank them for the compliment, but I can't help thinking they miss the point completely. For me reading isn't about charity or self-improvement - it's a hopelessly irresistible addiction. You might as well compliment a compulsive gambler on his skillful shuffling, or a chain smoker on his fluid lighter technique.

Among the fixes I get from reading are the bewildering coincidences and convergences between books, life, and other intangible things. For example, a few weeks ago I picked up a volume of Philip Roth, and started reading his political satire Our Gang. All the joking about Nixonian doublespeak, and the commitment to the rights of the unborn at the expense of the born, seemed startlingly relevant and hilarious. Then I got to the long speech in which he lays out the grounds for an invasion of the pro-pornographic regime of Denmark. At that point, I put the book down, thinking it far too corny - who would attack peaceful, kind, harmless Denmark? Then a Danish cartoon inspired much of the Muslim world to want to do just that.

This kind of bizarre coincidence is hardly the exception - often it feels like I've stumbled into the plot of a Murakami novel, even when I'm not reading Murakami. That's been my latest obsession lately though, as I've been entranced by the novel A Wild Sheep Chase. More to come soon (this time I promise!) about that novel, its connection to Berlioz and the Symphonie Fantastique, as well as (sigh...) loneliness and Valentine's Day.

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