Thursday, October 09, 2008

kindling passion

I consider reading to be one of the finer pleasures of life.

I put it right up there with smoky, small batch bourbon, earthy Cuban cigars and sunny fall afternoons on shimmering New England lakes.

As with all earthly pleasures, the risk of abuse and addiction is concomitant, but so are the endless excuses I find to justify it as the right thing to do at practically any given moment.

My tastes are eclectic and I often have two or three books on the menu at once. I rarely walk out of a movie I’ve paid for, I infrequently leave food on my plate and I almost never leave a book unfinished even when it turns out to be less than I expected. In recent memory (about eight years ago) I put down the one installment of the Harry Potter series that was given me by a nephew after only forty pages or so because it began to taste like Ovaltine. I swore off Ovaltine when I was eight.

I read a lot of theology – Von Balthasar, De Lubac, Ratzinger, De Chardin, Kasper and Congar are staple favorites. I can’t resist the controversial when it arises, recently, for example, Haight’s Jesus Symbol of God or Dupuis’ Christianity and the Religions. Among Protestant writers Barth and Bultmann are always worthwhile.

The somewhat loosely classified ‘existentialists’ are my normal philosophical fare: Kierkegaard, Neitzsche, Heidegger, Chekhov, Ionesco and their ilk.

I am quite fond of Greek tragedy (Sophocles and Euripides) and their classical English counterpart, Bill Shakespeare.

But a good read certainly does not have to imply heavy lifting. I gobble up Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, Chuck Palahniuk, Philip Roth, John Irving, Jose Saramago, Gunter Grass and others like a kid who’s allowed to skip the veggies and go right to dessert.

To the dismay of some of my brethren in the ministry, I also find dubious delight in horror, both classic and contemporary. I am the Exorcist, after all.

I will do late nighters in my lonely, creaky rectory overhanging the railroad tracks with anyone from Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson to Ray Bradbury, Jack Ketchum and Bentley Little. I even confess to the occasional Stephen King indulgence.

As if the connoisseur of fillet mignon couldn’t cave into the surreptitious craving for a Big Mac once in a while?

Anyway, all of this is but a preamble to what I was really going to mention on this post. Although I fully consider myself a child of our post-modern age, I am usually less than enthusiastic about the shiny electronic baubles and gewgaws that our technology enamored world shamelessly peddles as the latest have-to-have keys to hipness.

However, a few days ago my love of a good book got the better of me and overrode my distrust of flashy gadgetry. After prolonged inner debate I got myself a Kindle.

This little gizmo is the real deal.

Books, newspapers, magazines and blogs in a paperback sized contrivance that satiates even the most depraved biblophile’s inner nerd. Instant gratification. Isn’t that what life is all about?

I doubt that anything will ever replace the thrill of leisurely searching through used book stores. And no device will substitute the satisfying snap of a hardcover being bent back for the first time or the intoxicating smell of the printed page. But, believe me, the Kindle has already given new meaning to long lines, travel, solitary lunches, boring finance committee meetings, spaces between appointments and down time in general.

And so, I hereby boldly state to all the world that the Kindle will ultimately do for Chaucer what the IPod has done for Rachmaninov.