Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Year Of Reading Dangerously

by Stephen J. Gertz

2012 provided many opportunities for daredevil readers to dance on the precipice and laugh in the face of peril. Here's a review of some of my own action-packed adventures in reading during the last twelve months.

I love beach reading; I can get lost in a book for hours, days, weeks. Aside from the risk to steady employment the only real danger is sand in the perineum and gutter margin. 

During 2012's hurricane season, however, a new menace manifested itself, emerging from the waves to scare the sand out of my shorts on the East Coast. Fortunately, the rest of my clothes were on the West Coast with me in them.

The book I was reading before and later while fleeing my Fruit of the Looms, a copy of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, was snatched from my hands on the run. Yes, I ran on my hands, my legs herky-jerky. When last seen Godzilla was reading the book aloud to a sacrificial victim, taking particular relish in reciting Kurtz's last words, "The horror! The horror!" followed by a diabolical laugh.

My ol' buddy from Hebrew school, Kim Jong-un (we called him Kim Jong-Junior, The Bane of Jehovah) was finally promoted to the rank of Marshal of the DPRK in the Korean People's Army on July 18, 2012, consolidating his position as the supreme commander of the North Korean armed forces.  When he isn't waving or saluting at something he enjoys reading Playboy to the exclusion of all other skin mags; he has, in fact, banned the competition.

Remembering, however, his keen sense of humor (a fellow frat-member died of laughter while listening to North Korean knock-knock jokes; an insidious form of torture), I dared to peruse Naked Pyongyang: 1,000 Flowers Of Joy, a sous le manteau guide book to the North Korean capitol's fleshpots, featuring Miss Anti-Yankee Imperialist July in all her glory, during his promotion ceremony.

Bad idea. When you're First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, First Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, and a presidium member of the Central Politburo of the Workers' Party of Korea, friendship, evidently, takes a back seat to foreign policy.

He fired a test ICBM at me - but not before ripping Naked Pyongyang from my hot little hands and stuffing it into his back pocket for later inspection of counter-revolutionary propaganda mercilessly exposing the North Korean body politic.

When Toyota recalled 7.43 million automobiles in 2012 due to power window problems that might cause a conflagration, Mom and Pop accidentally (?) left me in the car at the service center, where, after the window issue was corrected, my manifold pressure was adjusted, rings lubed, oil transfused, umbilical cord severed, and idle set. But a dedicated reader is never idle; I read A Duck, A Dog, And A Dipstick, the new childrens' book by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, "Click and Clack" of Car Talk fame, and the follow-up to their As The Wrench Turns. What's the danger? You try reading while your seat is reupholstered with an oil rag instead of a diaper, hot jumper-cables fastened to your 'jammies.

I'd often wondered what would happen if, while enjoying a leisurely cruise through the Mediterranean aboard the Costa Concordia in January 2012, I read Athanasius Kircher's massive two-volume folio, Mundus Subterraneus (1664-65) by the rail on the starboard side of the ship. Unless someone is simultaneously reading the same book on the port side I don't recommend it.

I had nothing better to do in October so I hopped a capsule, zoomed 31 kilometers into the stratosphere, and jumped. It only took eleven minutes to land but it felt like an eternity. Luckily, I brought a book along to pass the time; simply twiddling my thumbs would surely not allay ennui on the way down.

Plummeting toward Earth at  614 mph broke Evelyn Woods' speed-reading record but made reading a copy of Great Expectations a bit dicey - the wind-shear ripped the leaves out every time I tried to turn a page. It was originally a serial novel so it was fortunate that I'd eaten my Wheaties - The Breakfast of Champions -  that morning: you try holding onto a book and pulling a ripcord while you tear through the atmosphere like a human meteor.

The tragedy at Newtown led the National Rifle Association to assert that more guns are needed to protect ourselves and our loved ones from crazies with Colts or Bushmasters; they're all over the place. Taking the warning to its logical conclusion, the American Book Association now recommends that readers pack heat. In a further move, it has suggested that in the future all books be sold with guns n' ammo for readers' safety. This cross-marketing scheme will surely shoot book sales into  the ionosphere, so I'm all for it. The idea has the additional benefit of discouraging people from interrupting you while you're deep into text. For this reason alone, Good Housekeeping has given the notion its Seal of Approval. Lock 'N Load To Rock 'N Read is the NRA's proposed slogan.

My last act of book daredevilry occurred at 12:00:01 AM, January 1, 2013 when I dove off the fiscal cliff while reading economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek's The Road To Serfdom. The suicidal aspect of cliff-diving (and reading Hayek. If  Salma Hayek wrote it, 'nother story) fell into high relief as I fell to an uncertain end. Reading cuts without increases in revenue to lower the reading deficit is a recipe for literacy disaster.

That was My Year In Reading. Yours?

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