Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sleep of the Aged


In my boyhood, TV commercials from RIF touted the importance of childhood literacy with the catchy slogan “Reading Is FUNdamental”. It was a slogan I took firmly to heart.

Addicted to television though I was, my rural home in Port Rowan Ontario offered only a few TV channels, each inefficiently piped into our black and white Zenith television by a 30-foot tall, rotating antennae. And, of course, there were only so many shows that appealed to a seven year old. Farm reports and news programs were of little interest to a budding cartoon connoisseur such as myself.

            Therefore, living in Boredom’s Waiting Room in the middle of nowhere as I did, other forms of diversion were required to distract me from playing with pointy objects, matches and wild animals. Thanks to my attentive, substitute-teacher Mom, I learned to read early, and quickly came to love the way it transported me out of the bucolic tedium of life in the country and into far off lands of adventure. I rooted out my mother’s childhood books, like several Trixie Belden mysteries, which were piled haphazardly in an upstairs closet, and read them late into the night, long after I was supposed to be asleep. Later I moved on to lending library material like The Black Stallion and the kid’s mystery series “The Three Investigators”, who often met with their Hollywood mentor Alfred Hitchcock.

I liked the mysteries and scrapes Trixie
and her pals fell into, but wasn't as keen
on the romance stuff. Girls! Ick!

Jupiter, Pete and Bob were a bit more to my liking.

Later, I devoured stacks of lurid genre paperbacks by E. R. Burroughs and R. E. Howard, which were purchased in bulk at the many rural barn sales my Grandmother frequented. My first Doc Savage paperback was one of these coverless treasures. I still have the book, The Devil’s Playground, and I was so intrigued by the small, black and white James Bama illustration of Doc and his crew on the back cover that I sought out more of the series. You can imagine how my head exploded when I finally saw one with a cover.
The back cover of the Bantam
Doc Savage series.

Cover art by the incomparable
James Bama. (Now a noted fine
artist of Western-themed art.)

            And so, for my whole life I have been sucking up books at a fast and steady tempo. Unfortunately, I find it’s becoming more difficult to keep up the pace.

I blame my advancing age.

My traditional designated reading time has always been after I go to bed and before I go to sleep. In years past this window averaged somewhere between 45 and 90 minutes, and I could cover a lot of literary ground in that time. These days not so much. More and more I’m finding that I get less than three or four pages into my reading before my eyelids begin to plummet earthward. I am one dozy reader.

This is disconcerting to say the least. My yearly rate of book consumption has gradually tapered from multiple dozens to a paltry six or seven. My ‘To Read’ stack has grown so tall, it threatens to topple and crush me under the weight. It’s becoming more and more clear that I am going to have to schedule my reading time.

With all the other demands in my day, this is no mean feat.

First there’s my illustration work, which, scarce as it is right now, still eats up a great deal of time. Then there’s my own writing, which for starters includes a novel, two TV show pitches, various short stories and two blogs. Then there’re the TV shows I follow, the movies, which I love, and the ever-expanding universe of social media I want to explore.

Oh, and from time to time, I like to spend a little quality time with my wife.

So where do I find an opportunity for that most FUNdamental of activities, good old reading?

Something will have to give.

Sadly, it will probably be some of my TV time. Not a pleasant choice, but it seems to be the only area where there’s a little leeway.

I lament that the human creature doesn’t gain greater energy and focus as we build our knowledge, experience and ability. If I could pair the raw drive of the younger me with the skill and patience I have today I’d be a real beast-man.

Now I have to decide what TV shows to cut out of my schedule. I love them all so much…

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