I’ve always been a hungry fiction reader. If for some reason I had to choose between reading fiction and making or looking at art, art would lose in a heartbeat. (Strange that the thing you love the most would be something you have no interest in trying to create . . .) I spend most of my studio days listening to one audiobook or another, feeling mildly guilty that I use the greater pleasure to spur the lesser. Maybe artists shouldn’t admit that they don’t create in a magic cloud of focus and inspiration, but I don’t. A lot of my work is plain manual labor and is as potentially dull as any other repetitive activity. The effort usually leads somewhere, but I require outside help to stay on task.
Sometimes my books are random choices. Good cover art, a clever title, or a story that falls into one of my guilty pleasure categories (historical fiction, Swedish murder mysteries, non-fiction accounts of escape from fringe religious groups) may cause a book to end up in my library selection cart for download. But what I’m really looking for is the big novel that knocks me out of my world for a little while. I listen to a lot of mediocre to get to the great.
Last month I listened to Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” which I thought WAS great. It involves (among many other things) stolen paintings, flawed characters, the importance of imperfect friends, drugs, furniture restoration, and some profound observations on beautiful objects and their ability to communicate through and outside of time. I hear there is a movie in the works, which, like the one based on my last blow-my-socks-off read Cloud Atlas, I will stay far away from.
Damn fine book.