Reading and Camping Notes

by | Aug 12, 2012 | Apropos of Nothing

I spent last week with my family, camping in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks, in upstate NY. I’m forbidden to release the name of the campground, so as to keep the likes of you away. But here are two photos, one facing our site, the other what you see if you turn around.

And here is a photo of my niece doing sparklers (while my brother looks on), and my other niece looking at the fire.

And my parents, same fire: 

It’s an idyllic place, pretty much Yeats’s Innisfree, so naturally I brought some books to read. Good ones like Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Heather Christle’s What Is Amazing (link is to Kathleen Rooney’s takedown review at Coldfront), selected stories of Robert Walser, some John Wesley for edifying conversation, and the new, awesome, Gigantic Sequins as well as of course the text book for afilm class I’m teaching next semester for the first time. And as a present, my mom gave me a beautiful Library of America edition of Carl Sandburg’s poems. Oh, and I picked up the Sunday Times on my way, in case I ran short (not likely).

Those reading plans were thwarted, though, when my dad brought out a couple Lee Child novels that I hadn’t read before. I got into Child’s thriller series, featuring tough ex-MP Jack Reacher, on a similar camping trip a few years earlier, when I found a book on CD version at the thrift store. Nothing makes a long drive pass faster.

But the brain candy page-turners are frustrating when you can’t put them down, even for Ann Patchett’s also addictive novel. First it was Echo Burning, in which Reacher saves the wife of an abusive old-family thug in Texas. I interviewed myself about that book, stupidly, at htmlgiant.

I was relieved to have finished that so I could pick up State of Wonder in earnest, but then my dad handed me Killing Floor, an early Reacher novel that features a lot of backstory, which is what I really love about the books. Reacher is a great character, richly detailed (though the details are the same in every book—he’s constantly on the move but never with luggage, he likes his coffee black, he excelled in the military but he doesn’t like authority, he likes slim women, he prioritizes the headbutt) but though I love the backstory, it’s Lee Child’s abbreviated sentences that demand such attention. It’s not that they’re hardboiled, just that they’re really short. They certainly aren’t delicious or even crafty. But you read Killing Floor and you feel like you’re getting things done.

It was a great vacation. All along I felt slightly guilty for not reading the best books in the world—there is never a vacation from those—but at the same time I felt bad for not kayaking more or climbing Mount Ampersand. That’s what Reacher does to you. The book should be called Killing Time. I’m going to go finish it real quick. For you, here’s a video of my drive home.