Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Once upon a time I was stuck in an airport without a book. This rarely happens to me. For example, while writing this entry I was stuck in an airport and had 3 books with meOut by Natsuo Kirino, Volume 5 of Grantland Quarterly, and 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill which for some reason I just can’t seem to finish.. But for some reason I had only brought one book along on the trip and I had finished it, so I headed to the airport bookstore. Luckily I was in a large airport and the bookstore had a fairly big selection including a bargain book table. After browsing for awhile an anthology called Wizards caught my eye. What a dorky title I thought. But then I noticed the book contained short stories by Orson Scott Card, who at the time was one of my favorite authorsWe've since had a messy breakup., as well as Neil Gaiman, who I had also enjoyed in the past. So for $5.99 I thought what the hell and bought it.

While I was reading the anthology I had one of those moments every reader loves. Something new hit me upside the head and made me say, “Wow”. I fell in love with a story called The Ruby Incomparable by Kage Baker. It was fantasy story of the daughter of an evil Master of the Mountain and a good Saint of the World. The description of the world was so lyrical and I really enjoyed the daughter’s coming of age story. Baker’s sense of humor also shone through and really hooked me. I immediately wanted more. Who was Kage Baker and what else had she written?

I turned to the Contributors section in the back and read something like the following: “Baker is best known for her Company series, in which immortal cyborgs are sent back through time to secure knowledge and treasures that would otherwise have been lost”. It was like someone put an arrow through my heartBig Hair!. I immediately hopped on Amazon and ordered the first book in the series, In the Garden of Iden, which arrived at my door the next day thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime. I finished it very quickly while on another trip, this time in San Diego. I desperately wanted to read the 2nd book in the series but I was only going to be in San Diego for a few days. I drove to a used book store not really expecting to find it, but there it was Sky Coyote, sitting there on the shelf, the only Baker book in the store.

I powered through Sky Coyote and found myself reading the 3rd book in the series, Mendoza in Hollywood. The 3rd book is set in Hollywood in the 1800s, long before the movie industry came to town. However, the cyborgs know what the area will become in the future so they have a movie night every so often. Baker, in her infinite wisdom, spends an entire chapter with the cyborgs as they Mystery Science 3000 D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic film Intolerance. Perhaps best known for Birth of a NationWhich after watching you could see just how racist people were in 1915, even people like D.W. Griffith who didn’t think they were., Griffith’s Intolerance was a both a masterpiece and a disaster. After reading this chapter I had to see the film.

So all of a sudden I’m watching a 1916 silent film and it is completely blowing my mind. How in the world did Griffith make this film without CGI? There are literally thousands of extras and massive sets with walls hundreds of feet high. I was so amazed by the spectacle I needed to know more. I purchased D. W. Griffith's Intolerance: Its Genesis and Its Vision by William M. Drew and learned much about film including the cast, and how directors often worked with the same company of actors from film to film. The next thing you know I was reading books about Griffith actors and actresses such as Lillian Gish: The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me and Dark Lady of the Silents by Miriam Cooper.

And that’s the story of how I started with a $5.99 book about Wizards and ended up reading an autobiography of a silent film actress. I just always seem to fall down these rabbit holes in my reading life. One book has a brief mention of something that seems interesting and the next thing you know I’m reading an entire book about that other topic. It’s a very similar, albeit much slower process, than when I fall into a Wikipedia hole. Wikipedia hole: When you start off by looking up something work related like cognitive systems engineering and end up reading about shark attacks.

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