Part of being a good writer is being a good reader. These past few months I’ve been doing a lot of reading, but I have done so in a very spastic fashion. Let me tell you all of the books/publications I have been in the middle of for the past few months:
Waiter Rant: Currently 100 pages in, this “Front of the house version of Kitchen Confidential” is everything I need on a bad day at the restaurant. Written by the Waiter, whose real identity is unknown to me because I have almost forgotten everything I’ve read, is a balls-out confession of what it’s like to be a professional waiter. And I thought I was the only one who couldn’t believe certain clientele’s requests, last minute restaurant emergencies or other ass-backwards ways of surviving the “business.” This read usually elicits a chuckle of fond recognition of certain situations, but more often than not has reminded me that I like to spend my off time AWAY from the restaurant, not reading about its contrived nature for fun.
Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge: Left at my house by accident by a friend visiting this summer, I’m 95 pages in. This is a beach read. Since I haven’t been to the beach in sometime, it’s obvious this one’s collecting dust on my nightstand. It started out fun and cheeky; practical and whimsical observations on how to live a bohemian lifestyle and why. It continues on in a cornball fashion, though, reiterating certain stereotypes about the alternative culture that I don’t necessarily agree with or find cute or funny (ie; the Bohemian so craves rounded edges to life that he/she never dusts, but since he/she smokes so much, they always paint their apartment before moving out. What?) This one might be retired to the hokey graveyard. Or I can do the right thing and return it to my friend (who admittedly doesn’t miss it much, either).
A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines: Ah, Anthony Boudain, you complete me. I needed SOMETHING to read of yours since I’ve gracefully finished Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw and the Nasty Bits. I figured another collection of essays would be right up my alley. I’m somewhere in the middle of the book and somewhere in the middle of an essay about Mr. Bourdain’s time in Morocco, right when he begins lamenting over and admitting to being very uncomfortable with certain aspects of making television. I have put this one down far too long and it’s time to pick it back up. Plus, this guy makes me laugh harder than anyone.
Kingdom of Fear: Hunter Thompson, you are my hero. I just finished this one today after YEARS of on-again off-again reading. I think it took me five years to read this book. Every time I pick it up, I put it down. This year it got serious, though. I was halfway through with it and then, as if a sudden star burst of energy only identifiable as complete insanity overtook me, it was suddenly time to finish what I started with the Doctor. I’ve read only a few of his books and I look forward to getting started on others’ of his. I think he might be one of my greatest inspirations, a drugged-up genius too crazy for his own good. But at the end of the day he’s funny, poignant, interesting and RIGHT. Stand for no injustices! Buy the ticket and take the trip! Live fast, die young, always embrace the weird and face fear with a sense of fun and reckless abandon. Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, create your own brand of journalism, name it Gonzo because it sounds fun, get caught up in the lunacy of your own mind’s twisted fantasies and get paid the big bucks do it. RIGHT ON!
Creative Nonfiction, Food Edition: This was an impulse buy from a store closing sale at Border’s. I have only read one essay in this magazine so far and have had a hard time feigning interest in it. After not being thoroughly impressed with the publication (seeing as I haven’t even had enough piqued interest to delve into other stories), I have decided NOT to subscribe and perhaps spend money on The Lucky Peach, a new publication on food with guest writers like Anthony Bourdain and David Chang.
National Geographic Traveler Magazines: I jumped into the deep end and figured that if this is my career of choice, I better start reading the pros. I have YET to be disappointed and I’m sure I never will be. Every month or so I get a new copy delivered to my door and what a treat it always is. So far, I have taken a river tubing trip based on a recommendation I saw in Traveler, read a spread about my friend Kelly’s hometown in Easton, Maryland, learned about the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal (inspiring me to travel to Montreal myself a few weeks ago) and have torn out countless beautiful photos for my wall.
Cocaine’s Son: Bought at the same time I purchased Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter, this book is NEARLY done, but I gave up on it. The author comes off as pompous, spoiled and whiny. I grew tired of him incessantly complaining about how his father got high and wronged him. Instead of taking proactive steps to mend his relationship with his dad, he shut down, crossed his arms and “HMMPHED” his way out of contact with his cokehead father. Want to read a better father/son relationship doomed by substance abuse? Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City draws far deeper conclusions from a hybrid of complex imagery and form shifting (a whole chapter is comprised of slang terms for the word “drunk.” Poetic and brilliant)
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A summer read borrowed from a friend and just finished yesterday. It’s a philosophy book written by none other than Alan Watts, a brilliant man who’s penned many philosophy and religious books said to be translations of the philosophies of Zen and Buddhism. A fantastic, quick read (would have been quicker had I not lost the book behind my bed for 2 months!) I’m glad I finally got to finish!