Books seemed to be really uncool, for a really long time there. I read heaps when I was younger, and pretty well until my age caught up, or until I stopped ‘pushing myself’ depending on who you ask, but I admit I fell in to the ‘books are lame’ category for a time there. Couldn’t say why. The last word was interchangeable, too. Books could be anything – boring, shit, for losers. That sort of thinking is almost baffling looking back. I don’t know if there is any data on this, but I am highly confident that there is a direct correlation with intelligence and those who read frequently. Actually it’s not that I didn’t like books, it was just that I really, really did not ever think to read one for leisure. Fiction written for young people though truly is generally pretty stale, with a few exceptions.
But then it suddenly came back. Guys and girls all started wearing brown coats, and leather shoes, growing (and grooming!?) mustaches, and carrying around tattered anthologies of George Orwell essays, stopping only to drink coffee and proudly display to everyone that they were indeed part of the ‘intelligentsia’, did you not notice what they were reading? Or that they were reading at all? I suppose some people felt left out, or stupid, and sought to read thin novels by obscure authors and wear it as a badge, or weapon. Can’t be all bad though, reading became the cool, trippy (for some reason?) thing to do.
The first book I remember really enjoying as anything more than a child was a Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier than Heaven. I didn’t even like Nirvana at the time,although I knew who they were. I would have been 12 years old, everyone in class had to check out a book from the school library and the only ones that really interested me at the time were about music or movies, not really novels, so the first thing I grabbed was Heavier than Heaven. I read the back and looked at the pictures, and had the “oh, it’s that guy” moment. For ages when I was younger I just thought that ‘Kurt Cobain’ was a serial killer. It seemed interesting enough and someone in class started talking to me about it so I held on to it and a few days later I went to the public library and borrowed a Nirvana greatest hits CD – the first time I even realised you could do that – and never returned it. Here was a book about a heroin-shooting, instrument-wrecking, rockstar-millionaire, who literally blew it all away, and I’m allowed to read it. School said so. Actually, my english teacher did give me a shifty look and demanded to know what I was reading when I asked her what ‘carnal knowledge’ meant, with regard to Dave Grohl’s time off on tour. Regardless, that’s a pretty interesting book to a 12 year old.
From there I mainly kept reading books about music, or biographies on musicians, preferably autobiographies. Around that same time I read one about Axl Rose that was similarly fascinating, and one about Jimi Hendrix called Room Full of Mirrors that was written by the same guy that wrote Heavier than Heaven, Charles R. Cross. Who knew, that just because it’s on paper and in between two slightly thicker pieces of card, it didn’t have to be lame/shit/boring, or any of those other words?
Art is kind of one big circle, in that they all compliment each other so when reading books about musicians that you love and respect and they talk about books and authors that they love and respect, you pretty much pay attention. You don’t have to like it, but you definitely want to find out about it. If Kurt Cobain likes Black Sabbath and The Beatles, and I like Black Sabbath and The Beatles, maybe I’ll like some William S. Burroughs stuff too, like he does. I think if you keep it organic you can’t really go wrong. Be open minded, but don’t pretend to like something just because it’s Lou Reed’s favourite. Being dishonest leads to the mustache grooming discussed earlier. At the end of the day, books are just stories, and some people like them on paper, some people like them spoken and filmed, some people like them in a video game. It’s content that really matters, not the medium. Books are honestly pretty cool though, in a similar way to albums, and I’m lucky I read because since I quit smoking I need all the coolness I can get.