Evolving notes, images and sounds by Luis Apiolaza

Category: books (Page 1 of 4)

I used to read

I used to read. A lot. All sorts of books, popular ones and some obscure ones; they were mostly novels, some poetry (in Spanish) were my usual fare. I read voraciously but with no target; I mean there was no “I have to read X books this year” just read and read. Years later I reduced my reading a lot, part of changing cities, countries, language, lifestyle.

Later came the idea of giving away books. It was too much hassle to keep so many books sitting on a shelf. Then I decided to buy much fewer books; some years I didn’t buy even one. Later there was much dog walking, which consumed a lot of my reading time and then I discovered audiobooks.

Initially, audiobooks felt very different, as usually my problem was “How do you pronounce this name? and now it was “How do you spell this name given the pronunciation?” It was harder to keep all the pieces in place, there was no going back to remind myself what was happening before. My solution, perhaps no ideal but practical, was to simplify stories. Lots of “who dunnit” but audiobooks were quite handy, with 8 to 15 hours for an unabbreviated story*.

Characters sound different from what they sound in my mind if I’m doing the reading. At the same time, it is going back to oral stories, which were the first stories for humanity. One big problem: the audiobook market is a dumpsterfire of a near monopoly, with a DRM heavy offer (Audible, an Amazon company). And I do not want to buy books or audiobooks so my solution is very simple: borrow audiobooks from my public library, which has a fairly large catalogue.

After a while one develops a taste for voice actors. My favourite, by far, is Seán Barrett who does an excellent Harry Hole in Joe Nesbø’s crime novels (here a Barrett interview about his voice acting work).

These “readings” are far from what I used to read, but they are very fun. How many of them? Quite a few, depending on time and books available. I often do not respect the order of book series, as I rarely have the patience to reserve the books and wait that they are in the right order.

Bookcase in my office. Mostly technical books.
Bookcase in my office. Mostly technical books, some of which I’ve given away.

*There are some exceptions, like Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon which is 43 (!) hours.

Influences: Cronopios and Famas

Books have accompanied me for all my life, or at least for as long as I can remember. However, my reading habits have changed many times, from reading simple books, to reading very complex books, to reading anything, to reading if I squeeze a few minutes here and there, to… you get the idea. ‘Habits’ is a funny word, an oxymoron, to refer to constant change.

Today I was thinking of influential books. No ‘good’ books or books that have received many awards or that have guided generations or catalyzed social change. I mean only books that have been important for me at a given point in time. If I had read them before or after that time they may have passed unnoticed. But I read them then, at the right time… for me.

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This time is Calvino

This happens relatively frequently: I am talking with someone else that doesn’t know me well and, at some point of the conversation I have mentioned that I am a forester. Then we move into books and I mention someone like Borges or Calvino and they look at me with this puzzled face as in ‘I didn’t know that foresters could read’. I know, it happens to other professions as well; just for the record not all of us are semi-literate apes, working with a chainsaw.

I was sorting out my bookshelves at work when I found a copy of The literature machine, a collection of essays by Italo Calvino. It had my name and signature, together with 2002, Melbourne, Australia. (Digression: besides my name and signature I always put the city where I bought a book). I had vague memories of walking around in Melbourne’s CBD and finding an underground bookshop. At the time I was not looking for anything in particular, just browsing titles.

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To know one’s own state is not a simple matter. One cannot look directly at one’s own face with one’s own eyes, for example. One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror. Through experience, we come to believe that the image is correct, but that is all.

Haruki Murakami in The wind-up bird chronicle.

I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.

Franz Kafka
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