Reading all the words

I'm juggling a lot at the moment, but two of the things I'm juggling at least give me a significant amount of pleasure: I'm in the middle of two books at once.

"Earth Abides" by George Stewart is possibly one of the first of the modern postapocalyptic novels; it came out in 1949 and is a bit dated by those standards (when the world goes away no one thinks about computers or really even TV; cars still have starters), but is terrific in its sweep, and terrifying at the same time — it only takes a generation for people to decide reading isn't as important as daily survival chores, and all of this great learning we have stored up is incomprehensible.

The other, "Jennifer Government," by Max Barry, is another sci-fi/fantasy type book, in which governments are secondary to corporations, and where you work determines your surname. It's a bit blunt in its approach, but also full of dark humor and I'm appreciating the world the author has created, even if the dystopic nature of things like the police force is a bit far-fetched if you think on a grander scale.

But the difference between the two is this: I'm reading one aloud ("Earth Abides") to M, and the other I'm reading for myself. I've always really loved reading aloud — I used to think, back when I wanted to be a news anchor, that it was good training for reading the teleprompters — and fortunately, M loves to be read to. (I'm a much poorer receptor than a giver in this case.) Reading aloud, particularly a book I've already read before, allows me to see it more in close-up; I'm a fast reader, which means I don't always read every word when I'm by myself, and reading aloud means I have to take every sentence and every paragraph as it comes. So in a way, it's reading the book all over again but getting something extra. We did "The Stand" last year (unabridged), by the way. All 1200 pages of it.

That said, we tried "Hatchet," a YA novel that won the Newbery a few years ago, and I just couldn't get into the style of writing — the author tends to repeat, repeat, repeat phrases and words back to back in a way that gets on every last nerve of mine. And frankly, I was expecting better from a Newbery winner.

Ah well. You can't win (or read) them all.