Sunday, June 23, 2013
Mental vacation destinations
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books and reading. When I was tiny, my Grandmother was almost always available to read to me, sometimes from the little children’s books that predominated in my toy chest, but sometimes, she would read things that were supposed to be beyond my comprehension level. She never pushed me, but made such reaching out a grand adventure, which we shared. Then I learned Braille, and *then* I discovered my school library, realized that between the covers of every book in that seemingly huge room adventures lay in wait, just for me, and I’ve been an avid explorer ever since. Each book I read leaves me with gifts. Some books broaden my knowledge base in areas of interest, or even create new interests. Some books challenge my assumptions or let me see things from a very different perspective. Some books are so beautifully written that they leave me breathless and mentally dazzled, and a very few books do all these things. A few books (and I never know beforehand which they will be) strike a chord so deep within me that they change me at my core. Any book, even the most frivolous, can set a train of thought in motion, though. There is another kind of book I enjoy, not for its depth, but because it lets me take a mental vacation. The Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler delight me in this way. The plots stretch suspension of disbelief to the absolute limit. Some of the characters are either under or over developed. Both Dirk Pitt and his son are almost (but not quite) typical super heroes, who can do anything, beat any villain in a fight, and always get the “girl”, but they suffer just enough to be endearing: yet these books work, and work well, partly because the stories are so incredible that I just *have* to find out what happens next, and they contain the kind of drama and excitement of “thriller opera” at its best, and partly because the books are very well written. Mr. Cussler is wise enough not to make the romantic interests of either Pitt lovely but brainless; in fact, the ladies of these books are true equals of both father and son, have their own careers, and can definitely hold their own. Are these books shallow? Absolutely. Are these books good reads? You bet they are! Reading them is like watching Star Wars, and they appeal to me for many of the same reasons. They are very high quality mind candy, and everyone benefits from a healthy serving of mind candy, from time to time, I think.