Reading
as a substitute for dreaming

I   
used to dream alot. Very interesting and exciting adventure dreams. Sometimes I got killed. There were villians and airplanes crashing all over the place ... swimming, running, flying (with or without an airplane), chases, hiding, fighting ... wow. Sometimes I would have a dream that was so interesting that it made life worth living all by itself for two or three days. I looked forward to sleep just to experience some new phenomenon. Even nightmares were stupendous.

All that gradually ended as I aged. They say you still dream but just don't remember your dreams. This could be true as I sometimes awake suddenly and get to experience something similar to what once was ... but not often. Usually, I get up remembering nothing. It's sad.

Enter the Novel

Pulp fiction or the classics. Doesn't really matter. If you can get into the story it substitutes for the "reality" of dreaming. Let me explain.

When you dream, you are not imagining what is not there. You are experiencing what is not there. Take flying through the air ... unassisted. Impossible in real life. Imitated in movies. Experienced in dreams. You get to feel what it would actually be like to be able to fly. Your own brain figures out the details and lets you have it. You can feel the air and that incredible lightness of being. That's the difference that you can't get in a film. In a movie you just imagine and all the reality around you gets in the way of the experience.

A good book engages your mind as a film cannot. You become a real partner in the adventure by constructing at least half the scene yourself (automatically by subconscious mechanisms). In a movie it's all laid out for you and requires nothing from your mind but simple attention (you're just a spectator). Books are not as good as dreaming but then, admittedly, dreaming is not as good as actually doing it (but actuality is often a straight-up impossibility). So, a dream is the only way to fly. And you don't risk any real damage.

It's got to be well written. Somebody's gotta' think and integrate the words to convey the scene to a "partner" so that he can accurately experience the false-dream. If an author can maximize the participation of the reader's brain, he's succeeded in his craft and the reader does "mental work" that's roughly equivalent to playing baseball instead of just watching it.

I hadn't read any fiction to speak of till around October of 2005. I quit reading fiction in my late twenties after finishing a reading jag during which I went through a couple dozen books half of which were fiction. Now, my wife brings home paperbacks from people who leave them where she works ... more than I can read. So, I pick and choose.

Here's a list of the books I'ver read in the past ~ 19 months and some really short reviews and ratings on a 1-10 scale.

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
I reread this for something to do in October of '05 because I hadn't read it in about 25 years. It's fascinating if you've never read it. I'd give it a "9"

Ticktock - Dean Koontz
Pure pulp. Fast read. Not too memorable but has some good action bits. I give it "4"

Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas - James L. Haley
Excellent non-fiction. I have a great deal more respect for Sam Houston now than before. The last fifty pages or so were boring mainly because they were known, recent history. Give it a "7"

A Game of Thrones - George RR Martin
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows

Read these and you're set for about four months maybe five. Martin is as good an author as Alexandre Dumas. It's not the same style and Martin uses "magical" things (but not enough to bother the plot and character development). In fact, his main schtick is ... character development. He excels here. The degree of complication and sheer numbers of characters compounded by the difficulty of integrating it all into a consistent whole indicates to me that this author will always bite off more than he can chew then proceed to chew it anyway (as well as fully digest it ... then he shits gold ... like one of his characters is said to ;o). A very commendable "8.5" (Not many living authors of equal caliber)

Chasing the Dime - Michael Connelly
Pure pulp. Read it fast and go on to the next one. I like these pulp adventure jobs. Reading for the sake of reading. Give it a "5".

Pirate- Ted Bell
More pure pulp. The author seemed to be trying to set up a movie script rather than just writing to please readers, i.e. hoping for a "movie deal". It was OK. A good time reading. I give it a "4".

No Remorse - Tom Clancy
More pulp. Fun reading but somewhat hard to get by the main character's stupidity. I mean here too stupid to be believable when compared with the rest of the character's development ... inconsistent. I give him "4".

The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
Actually a shocking book. It's not pure pulp. Somebody actually tried to write a great book and succeeded. But apparently this is his only "good" book. The rest of his output appears to be just pulp. Maybe every popular author is capable of great work but doesn't do it because it ... doesn't sell as well as pulp and takes more time?? Excellent character development and a very rewarding, consistent end to the story. Congratulations. I give it an easy "8". (Maybe it should be more)

Night Seige - J. Allan Hynek
I bought this non-fiction book from Amazon because I may have sighted a UFO in the Hudson Valley wave. Interesting and short. "5"

A Man in Full - Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe is a great writer as evidenced by some sections of this book. However, over all, this sucks. He uses a "deus ex machina" to extricate one of his main characters from a fully developed plot line and never returns to it. The end of the book looks like he was pressed by the publisher to "finish" and he just threw the last 50 pages or so together over the weekend to be done with it. A real embarrassment. Sorry I bothereed to read it. I give it a "3" just because it had some good pages mixed in.

Black Wind - Clive Cussler
Pure pulp. Good read. Fun. Not too well constructed but passable. He put in a minor character and gave him his own name (Clive Cussler) ... pretty lame. "4"

Light in August - William Faulkner
This is, of course, not pulp. It's a genuine artsy novel by a master storyteller. He goes into excrutiating detail in the course of developing his characters who ... in the end ... I don't care about. Very well made. Lots of unusual words too. I give it a "6" but it should have been more. The characters were just too much a bunch of zeros.

Whiteout - Tom Follett
Pure pulp. This is nothing compared to Pillars of the Earth but it's a fun read. I give it a "5".

Currently, I'm reading my first Graphic Novel ! that is, an extended comic book. It is "Watchmen" by Alan Moore (and I am enjoying the new experience). Maybe I'll just continue adding to this list as I read more pulp, eh?