Friday, August 03, 2012

My reading is all over the map these days and I don't mind that one little bit.  When I was younger, and younger means all the way back to my preteen years, I usually had two books going at once, one a major history or biography, the other something lighter.  I'd go back and forth during breaks in my homework and it kept my mind fresh, particularly as my extra-curricular reading was always a good deal more interesting than anything going on in school.  I still read two simultaneously sometimes.

I begin and end my day reading in bed.  I've never needed the classic eight hours of sleep to operate at a good, sustainable level of energy.  For most of my life five to five and a half hours were all I needed; when I woke my mind would kick into gear and that was that.  My parents frequently urged me to roll over and go back to sleep, but for me that meant rolling over and staring at the wall wide awake, so I began reading for an hour or so in the morning to get me to their normal get-up time.

Magazines play a big part in my reading.  Eight or nine come into the house  regularly.  Opera News is one I've subscribed to since late in grammar school.  It is denigrated by some ("Opera Snooze") as it doesn't traffic in the often unsubstantiated and bitchy gossip in which some opera lovers revel, but it keeps me up on trends in the profession, singers and their careers and, via international reviews, what's happening in production styles which is important to my work on stage and in lecturing.

The Historic New England magazine relates directly to my last post (the cover picture on the left is the working kitchen from Beauport, the house I spoke of and illustrated at length).  Fritz and I value this area's historic architecture (including a great deal more than Historic New England manages).  HNE is always filled with articles on the restoration and preservation techniques required to stabilize and preserve historic structures as well as biographical information on the houses and their various occupants over the centuries.

The Gay and Lesbian Review (formerly Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review) has become a great source for my other type of reading, biographies and books on history, specifically gay history that is now being published frequently enough to give a true picture of the gay life through the centuries.  I also get at least enough, if not a great deal too much, academic gay theory from the articles -- things like we can't call people who loved members of their own sex before the 20th century gay or homosexual because those words didn't exist then.  True enough, but psychiatric writing includes speculative diagnoses of schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder when writing about Roman Emperors and other historical figures and I'm quite sure those terms didn't exist thousands of years ago either.  GLR generally has good, level-headed editorial comment and letters that are often highly controversial and that begin spirited dialog.

Smithsonian is one that Fritz has been subscribing to for many years and it's always full of things I love, particularly archaeology, an early interest of mine that has only deepened over the years.  The scope of Smithsonian's interests is huge; of all the magazines that come into the house, it is the only one that can really not be classified.  It resembles National Geographic in that way, always filled with surprise topics.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) Bulletin is published quarterly.  The first three issues of any year are devoted to one particular topic: a single artist, the jewelry of the Italian Renaissance, early Egyptian sculpture, etc., etc.  The fourth issue is always devoted to the Museum's recent new acquisitions.  The Bulletin comes as part and parcel of my annual Christmas gift from a cousin of mine and his wife.  Each year, they give me a membership to the Museum that I use frequently for free entrance during my trips to NYC for performances and to purchase books and other gifts at a discount.                                                                          

I have given up saving magazines.  For decades, I saved Opera News and Fanfare which reviews classical, jazz, opera, ancient music, and a lot of totally unclassifiable music, all of which I am interested in.  The result was that moving from residence to residence was a nightmarish job of packing and carrying heavy cartons up stairs and finding or making sufficient shelf space for storage.  When I retired from MIT, and Fritz and I could finally live together, I bit the bullet hard and made up a huge recycling load.  I only save selected issues of the Bulletin now when their subjects coincide with current or upcoming projects.  

In truth I do miss Opera News on occasion when I'm researching my symposium presentations for Greenfield Community College, or when I was doing pre-performance talks for HD European opera presentations at the art theater in Exeter, NH.  But most of the information can be reclaimed from  archives on the web, so great is the amount of information available these days.

The Week is given to both of us each year at Christmas by the same cousin and wife.  We appreciate having the stories and issues of the preceding week covered in excerpts from reporters and commentators of several different political and cultural biases for each topic.  The Week also covers performing arts, recent books, current movies and television nation-wide.

The Advocate used to be a lot bigger but got absorbed by Out which is of
little interest to us.  I see it as a gay People, largely concerned with glitz, trendy fashion and a lifestyle rather far from ours.  I do skim it when it arrives just to keep up with pop culture.  The Advocate is now tucked into Out and cannot be subscribed to separately any more.  It remains a fairly intelligent magazine but a lot that I miss was jettisoned by Out in the merger.

As to the books I read, many of them are connected to current projects, operas I'm designing, or titles that grab my interest.  I support my reading habit by shopping for used books on Amazon.  One of the joys of being self-employed is that after decades in a highly demanding profession, I am finally getting the chance I've always dreamed of to read as much as I want!

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