It’s no secret that I read more than one book at the same time. I have books in different rooms that I read in those rooms alone. I have books that travel from room to room, place to place, as they hold my interest. I have books I read and leave at work. And there are books I am actively reading (daily) and passively reading (as the mood strikes, abandoned for the moment). I never have less than five books out from the library, upwards of a dozen I’m reviewing at any given moment.
Then there’s the magazines. I love magazines. I am a total periodical consumer.
The funny thing is how all this parallel reading sometimes comes together. I have a pair of books in one room (okay, the bathroom) that on the surface couldn’t seem more opposite: Lord of the Fries by Tim Wynne-Jones and Humpty Dumpty in Oakland by Phillip K. Dick. I take turns reading chapters from them. I find they compliment each other in strange ways.
One is a collection of short stories, the other is a novel, separated by 30 years (although this is the first time the Dick book has been in print). One has adults trying to navigate the harsher realities of middle-age angst, the other has teens navigating their teenage angst. Urban California versus suburban Canada. Modern, natural narrative against mannered literary stylist.
The two books work together the same way that ingredients do in cooking, it’s almost alchemical. You can make a tomato sauce for pasta with a little honey to cut the acid, or you can grate in some lemon zest instead and brighten the flavor. The Dick book has a gravity to it, the weight of the characters like the spare tire they carry with them in their later years; the Wynne-Jones kids are all the light rambunctiousness of youth. Both feature the antics of adults navigating their way through life, different but no less than the teens who are still trying to find their place in the world. Same world, different times, same struggles, different perspectives.
Parallel worlds, in my bathroom.