Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Mysteries of Escape Reading

In some ways, I'd have to admit that I have commodified (even commoditized, ugly though that word may be) my reading -- that is, my paycheque is based on my ability to analyse my reading and to write and teach about that analysis. Not all of my reading comes under this purview, of course, but during term it's difficult to fit in any of the kind that escapes it other than magazines which can be read in bits and pieces and my precious blogs, also amenable to reading "in-between." Perhaps for that reason, even though I have stacks of "literary novels," as well as poetry and theory,that I would enjoy reading, even finding some escape in that exercise, I feel as if I haven't really had a "break" unless I fit in something like a mystery novel. Kind of goofy, really, like distinguishing between "good food" and "bad food" and getting extra pleasure from the bag of potato chips on that basis. Often the distinctions are arbitrary with many mystery novels that appeal to me being as well written as some of what gets labelled "literary" (have you ever read John Farrow's compelling Montreal mysteries?), but the fact remains. I feel cheated if I don't get to read a mystery over a holiday and I feel the defiant pleasure of cheating if I do.

All of which is a preamble to say that I finally got around to reading the latest Michael Connelly, The Brass Verdict, which I'd given Paul in hardcover for Christmas (don't often splurge on hardcover mysteries, but at Christmas with the Chapters on-line discounts, I sometimes do). We're both big fans of the Harry Bosch series, and we also both approve of the way Connelly has got 'round the problem of author ennui that seems to have hit other favourite series (Patricia Cornwell and Kay Scarpetta being the obvious example). Here he's delivered a second book focused on "the Lincoln lawyer," but he throws a bone to those of us hankering for more Bosch. That character appears in the novel and there is a very satisfying addition to what we know about him by the resolution of the mystery. I can't say I found the book as deeply engaging at the level of character and setting as I recently did with, say, Elizabeth George's latest, but it was well plotted, had credible and interesting characters, and distracted me for several pleasurable hours. In short, it's sending me back to my "regularly scheduled reading" reassured that there's still room for reading that escapes the demands of the paycheque as well as reassured that there's still life in good ol' Harry, even if he never gets another novel all to himself.


  1. Oh, I'm all for a little escape reading now and then and for you perhaps even more a pleasure since as you say, your paycheck depends on your ability to analyze your reading. I think I was a failed literature student as I still seem a failure at analyzing, or perhaps just not interested enough, and all I got out of it is the guilt of enjoying things I now feel I shouldn't.

  2. Well you and I both know how useful guilt is Mardel -- not very! I'm trying to learn that if I enjoy it, that's okay, and it's worth something despite what critics say. Your analysis always seems very astute to me, so there's no way I can imagine you failing as a lit student. Did you ever get 'round to reading that Elizabeth George, btw?