by Steve Jenkins
A snowstorm in August — stranger things have happened in Colorado. Interestingly, I’ve approximated Roger’s imaginary scenario by participating in a first-rate bicycle crash. Broken bones, bruises, and a jaw wired shut have rendered me homebound for a few days. So instead of making something up, I can report what really happened when I found myself inconvenienced (thankfully, not disastrously so).
What did I read? It was not, as you might suspect, the second book in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. Earlier this summer, I struggled through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, constantly harangued by a small inner voice that kept asking if I didn’t have something better to do. Not since I read my first (and last) Dan Brown novel have I been as impatient to finish a book. And this was at the beach, mind you. I bear no ill will toward Mr. Larsson. I wish he could be here to enjoy his success. I just don’t understand the frenzy surrounding these books when there are equally dark and much better written choices at hand — No Country for Old Men comes to mind.
Another option would have been to work my way through the precariously tall stack of New Yorker magazines at my bedside. Or I could have finished R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis. I’ve greatly enjoyed the book, but have lately become bogged down in a morass of begats. It’s simply a matter of soldiering on…
Since this has not been a drill, however, it’s possible to provide a real answer: I read books about raising a puppy. Five or six of them. We have an eleven-week-old golden retriever, and I’m determined that this dog, unlike our last much-loved but ill-behaved golden, will have perfect manners. This is the kind of practical reading I often plan (how should I invest the enormous fortune left me by an uncle I didn’t realize I had?) but seldom get around to. The best of the lot: The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete, and How to Raise the Perfect Dog, by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier. In the latter, one must accept the “as told to” tone and endure no end of self-promotion and name-dropping, but the man does know a lot about dogs.
Oops — out of words. I’ll let you know how the puppy turns out.
Steve Jenkins’s latest book is Bones: Skeletons and How They Work (Scholastic).
From the November/December 2010 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.