Friday, March 14, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I'm feeling a lot like I did as a teen when I was supposed to be doing my homework but couldn't put down the latest story I was engrossed in. Usually a novel back then but these days not necessarily since I've discovered the power of story to be as gripping in a variety of other formats.

This week the 'homework' was daily posting here and work for the 70 Days challenge. I am my own task master so there is nothing but my own stern mental chastisement standing behind that guilty frisson, that cold shiver that hunches my shoulders around my ears as I sneak a peak over my shoulder.

Yesterday I went to the library and after pulling a bunch of books off the shelves until my arms trembled with their weight, I went to sit in the chair by the hearth with that stack in my lap; ostensibly to winnow them down since I already had a stack of similar size of requested items from other branches. I quickly put two of those books with the to go stack but then something happened when I applied my quick pre-read protocol on the next book--cover, inside cover, title page, table of contents, first paragraph followed by dipping in at random at several places as I riffle the pages.

Apparently I didn't stop after the first paragraph and move onto the page riffling for some time later I was brought to awareness of the stack of books still on my lap when they started to slip. And discovered I was thirty pages into the novel I had been vetting.

Needless to say that one went home with me. And I returned to it almost as soon as I'd gotten back in our room. Instead of preparing the bibliography slips for all the first timers in the bag, I just rummaged in it until I found the book I'd begun and started reading and didn't quit until I was called to the table at six. Then as soon as I was done with the dishes I went right back to it, only forcing myself to set it aside at 10 PM in order to get my Friday Snippet prepared. It was after 2AM by the time I'd posted both the snippet and the update to the TT describing my purpose or interest in all the library items I'd listed there. In spite of knowing that sleep was a wiser course, I picked up the novel again and didn't put it down until I finished it at 4:30 AM.

The story that held me in its grip? The Gift by Richard Paul Evans.

This afternoon, I set out to get that bib slip chore done but before I started pulling the books out of the bag, I needed to prepare the shelf which I'd left in a mess when I pulled out the ones going back yesterday. I decided I needed to refresh my memory on which books were coming due next week so I could set priorities. I pulled all the library books onto the bed with me and then logged onto my library patron account online. I quickly separated out the ones coming due next week. And as it happens they are all due on Thursday again. The following week there are items due on both Monday and Thursday.

At first I was able to stay on task and then it happened again. Except in this case it wasn't a novel. It was a book that I'd checked out before and forgotten to mark on its bib slip the page number I'd left off on. I picked it up and started thumbing through, reading lines at the top of pages, moving on as soon as I recognized them. Or at least that is how it started. At some point I stopped moving on. I got caught up in re-reading and once again found myself lost in a story and reluctant to move on to designated tasks. The bag of books from yesterday's library haul is still unpacked. All I've got to show for this day is a hundred odd page advance of a bookmark.

The story that has me in its grip tonight? Poltergeist: A Study in Destructive Haunting by Colin Wilson.

Wilson was one of the authors I discovered early in my quest to learn to think for myself. I found his first two books, Outsider and Religion and the Rebel in the early nineties and was completely drawn in by the way his mind worked as it came across in those books, because it was so similar to the way mine worked. Not necessarily in the conclusions he comes to but in the way he ranges all over the realm of accumulated knowledge and theory to collect support for his thesis instead of staying inside the confines of a discipline. He has since written some eighty books and has garnered a rep for tackling controversial topics and for applying startling new perspectives to old puzzles.

I discovered Wilson's interest in the paranormal only after I'd read those two books that established him in my mind as a philosopher and deep and meticulous thinker. I wonder sometimes what opinion I would have formed if I had first discovered him through Poltergeist or (another of the books due next Thursday) Alien Dawn?

These topics are among my guilty pleasures ever since I discovered ghost stories around age eight or nine and Star Trek around age 10. Such stories were considered sacreligious at best and dangerously evil at worst by the religious culture I was raised in. And they are held in contempt and derision by the scholarly circles I began shifting my identity to in the late eighties.

I just can't help it. Such stories of mysterious otherness are as irresistible as chocolate or potato chips for me. Guilty pleasures. I wonder sometimes if the guilt part is actually part of the pleasure.

0 tell me a story:

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