What’s on your ‘Read before Dead’ list? (Here, read is past tense, ‘red’ to rhyme with dead). The question was posed by a new acquaintance on Instagram, where I’ve been attempting to build more of a presence for Vinyl Connection. It’s the same old hamster wheel I’ve trudged around on WordPress, Tumblr and other socials and I’m really not sure why I’m doing it. Isn’t all social media ultimately a waste of time? Like flicking playing cards into a wastepaper bin and calling it entertainment. Better off reading, surely?
My answer to the bucket book question was ‘more of everything’. Betterment of the mind through literature. Learning and appreciation. Pride and educational status are in there somewhere too, the snooty prefect who roams the mind corridors judging intellectual achievements. And always finding them wanting. Like lemon juice writing emerging over a gentle flame, a list emerged, demonstrating a fawning desire to be seen as ‘well read’ (rhyming with dead).
Dostoyevsky, starting with The Brothers Karamazov
Iris Murdoch (anything)
The Handmaiden’s Tale (because I’m currently earning good-partner points watching the series)
The other two thirds of Shakespeare
Reality is a little different. The last book I completed was Mick Wall’s no-holds-barred biography of Black Sabbath, which had more swearing than any non-fiction book I’ve ever read. The 33⅓ music monograph on Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights is required reading for a music book group. I ordered a back copy of Prog magazine to check it out; it is sitting on the coffee table next to an adolescent/children’s fiction book my son recommended. (He’s been reading some of my suggestions, I thought it only fair to have traffic going the other way). Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans is also on the table. I raced through the first half of this slim novella but have stalled. Also in the ‘I must get back to that’ category is an ancient copy of Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett. Knowing my fondness for Mr B’s plays, a retired English-teacher friend gave me a spare copy and suggested we read it concurrently. I’m winning, being on page seventy-four. Yesterday, on the phone, he announced a new challenge: adding Ulysses to the list. The deadpan voice did not fool me for a second; I roared with laughter. We started Malone Dies (a tenth of the length of Joyce’s tome) five years ago. His partner, also on speaker, scoffed. Why would you read that old stuff? Modern writing is better. Is it? I don’t know; haven’t read enough. But there are more dead writers than living and cities full of books waiting to be read. The list could be endless. More Vonnegut, a creative non-fiction dude recommended by a friend, attempt the Dune sequel, Sanditon… Better make a coffee and get reading. But first I’ll just check Insta to see how many more likes my photo of The Wombles LP has received.