There's a half read book in the seat pocket in my car: Andra Levy's "Long Song". There's a volume by Tehmina Aman gathering dust next to the bed. And there's a third, dust-jacket-covered, few-times-opened copy of Philip Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" on my desk. All this quite apart from the many bought-and-waiting-to-be-read books on the shelves, pushed further back each time I go to the bookstore and emerge defeated, two more under my arm.
I'm sure many of us have experienced this space between stories, the hiatus between books. You finish one, are overwhelmed by the craft of the writer and the sweep of the story, and wallow in the imagination of a brilliant writer, wondering if it will be surpassed, and knowing full well it will. There are many others awaiting your attention but you feel reluctant to break this spell, to enter into yet another world that has been painstakingly built for your occupation. Weeks go by and you realise suddenly that you haven't been reading. That you have let a month go by without picking up a book. For someone who simply MUST read in moments between doing such everyday things as cooking and eating and working and whatnot, this awareness is akin to being hit by a thunderbolt and a long rope of guilt extracted from the very depths on one's being (okay, I apologise for the rather convoluted yet graphic metaphor). So you quickly move to assuage the guilt, to fill with printed words the void created by non-reading. You devour magazines (of the decently long-form journalism variety), collections of short stories, Sunday supplements, and such...but the book still eludes your grasp. Somehow nothing seems to fit the bill. The hangover continues and you are unable to re-enter another imaginative world until the previous one has been completely exorcised from your consciousness.
All the three books I've mentioned above are extremely promising. I am close to finishing "Long Song" but the last verse refuses to recall me with sufficient energy. I need a little more time.
But I now know what I need to get through this in-between phase. Some good basic crime stories. Maybe I'll pick up another Inspector Wallander story. Now, that's more like it. I can enter the Swedish countryside without the kind of mental preparation required to immerse myself in Bangladeshi society or the post-human post-digital landscape of Dick's vision.
I know what I'm reading this weekend.