Saturday, August 23, 2008

Between the lines

I've been doing a lot of reading lately.

Nothing too weighty, mind you, just stuff that I read about on the Internets or hear about on a podcast. (Sometimes, I wonder if I can take anyone seriously anymore unless their voice is digitally filtered and delivered to me via earbuds. But that's my problem, not yours.)

ANYWAY . . .

I read two books by Stefan Fatsis recently. I believe that I've already mentioned Word Freak, which is one man's (Fatsis') journey into the bizarre and socially maladjusted world of competitive Scrabble. Fatsis gets to know the heavy hitters in the tournament circuit and becomes increasingly obsessed with the techniques and methods of being a "serious" "professional" tile jockey. And trust me, these guys play the game in a different stratosphere than those of us who occasionally play around the dinner table. It's all about bingos (using all the tiles on a rack), insanely esoteric word memorization, and stuff like that. I sort of liked the book's journey, but it left the original Scrabble-interested David back in the first few chapters. But I soldiered on anyway.

His other book, recently published, is A Few Seconds of Panic, in which he continues his authorial modus operandi of submersion. To wit, Fatsis this time spends a summer in the training camp of the Denver Broncos NFL franchise training to be a kicker. (It began as a bit of a homage to George Plimpton's Paper Lion work in the late 1960s, but Fatsis spends a great deal of time outlining the heartless machinations of the modern day NFL and how it sucks athletes dry, spitting them out once their skills have eroded or they have become too expensive. It'll change the way you watch TV on Sunday afternoons . . . if that's your thing.

I also just finished a book I heard about on NPR--My Stroke of Insight. This story describes how a neuroscientist experienced her own brain hemorrhage and how she made it through brain surgery and therapy. What hooked me on this story was 1) the oddity of a neuroscientist--someone uniquely prepared to understand the effects of a stroke--undergoing such an event and 2) the particulars of the day the stroke occurred. Dr. Bolte-Taylor's description of the day of the event is intriguing (it was especially so when heard on the radio). 

Currently, I'm reading The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, renewing my familiarity with the insane universe of Douglas Adams. Adams' books are unique in their own bizarre way, but I feel that a lot of modern pop culture and writing has a bit of a debt to Adams' willingness to stop making sense and just write a bunch of nonsense. It's fun!

As usual, there is more rattling around in my brain, but I don't really want to spend more time tonight trying to type it down.

Perhaps tomorrow?

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