The trouble with a lot of re-reading is that there's really only so long that it's possible to keep pulling well known books out of the bookshelf before the need - yes, NEED - for a new story starts to intrude on the pleasures of the old and familiar.
I think I struck that last night. To make a change of pace from my steady diet of children's books over the last week or so, I got out John Wyndham's Consider Her Ways. It's an anthology of his short stories. For those not familiar with his name, he also wrote The Day of the Triffids, of which there are a few film versions and a good television mini series. I'm not generally a fan of the short story - I find them frustrating. Just as I'm getting my teeth into the guts of the narrative, it finishes and I find myself wanting more. My mother loved them and bought me a number of different anthologies over the years, which I've dipped in and out of occasionally, but the only ones I ever come back to are Wyndham's. The man is diabolically clever. His particular brand of science fiction predates a lot of the tech heavy that has become more characteristic of the genre, and focuses instead on the human condition within a range of quite peculiar scenarios, so it's far more possible to imagine being some of his protagonists - unlike the fantasy aspect of more common brands of science fiction - that feels especially pertinent, having watched the latest Star Trek movie on DVD last night. Some of the stories are really creepy and it's almost a relief to reach the end.
Last night though, I couldn't get hooked like I usually do with his writing. What I'd really love is to stumble across a Wyndham I've never read but, alas, with the exception of a second anthology of short stories which I've read but don't own, I have all his books - now mostly out of print I think. And the dear man went and died, so there can be no more.
So, this morning while my pot of tea was brewing, I went back to the bookshelf. I ended up with Dan Brown's most recent book, The Lost Symbol, published in 2009. I'd read The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, and seen the films, but had somehow missed this one coming out. In a shift from his focus on the Catholic church and associated - or not, depending on your point of view - organisations, this one is centred around Freemasonry. I bought my copy because I'd been commissioned to write two chapters for an Australian book on Freemasonry (Real Men Wear Aprons edited by Peter Lazar) that was being timed for release at the same time to counter any possible negative impact for Freemasons. I thought I'd better read it as part of my research - plus, I got to claim the purchase price on my tax as it had been bought for work. Bonus!! In the event, Brown presents the Masons with accuracy and a level of sensitivity and the people I was working with were quite relieved.
I'm well into the first chapter, but that niggle about needing something new is still alive and well. There are two new books in the house - gifts from me to my partner and his son. As every book junkie knows, any book is fair game, even if someone is already reading it... One is fiction - Cormac McCarthy's The Road - which my stepson thought was about vampires after reading the blurb, but has discovered is not... The other is what looks to be a fascinating collaboration between a rabbi and an art historian, The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican by Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner. I am on the receiving end of tantalising fragments that are read out loud to me, followed by "oh, but I guess you'd like to read it yourself"... Now, I didn't, contrary to popular belief, buy that book for myself. I bought it for him. The Renaissance isn't really my period. However, it's a book. An art book. Commentary. And, yes, I want to read it! While I wait, I will settle to Brown's yarn about Robert Langdon and the Masons...