Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What do you read in the gym?

Readers of this blog will know of my misadventure last year in moving a large, heavy, bulky elliptical machine from the top of my house to the bottom. Suffice it to say that unlike Humpty Dumpty, who I otherwise resemble, the machine was put back together again and had a few more good months before a final collapse. It is now in pieces, in the basement, with cobwebs and worse, like the old wreck that rode it for years--me. The old wreck has joined the local gym, the better to abuse the Ellipticals (ellipticii?) Stairmasters, Precors or whatever over there. The sight of me growling and huffing away resembles a polar bear in acute bowel distress no doubt, but I at least try to read while running, the better to improve my mid while my girth grows, Elliptcii or not.

What do you read in the gym? I've found that trash and smut work best, but I'm, usually too embarrassed to take my own advice. Recently, "The Lost Diary of Mary Queen of Scots" by Erickson had me mired in chick lit lite, historical fantasy with Mary Stuart consorting with Elizabeth I in a mud bath, alas not what you think. This was too fuzzy (muddy?) even for me, but I did finish the book. Better was Anthony Summers's bio of Frank Sinatra. Our Tony (!) has mafia on the brain, and the best bedfellows weren't Mia or Ava Gardner but Sam Giancana with the Kennedys. Who needs Marilyn?

Michael Holyrood's very, very long book about Henry Irving and Ellen Terry and Gordon Craig and all their friends and relations over 100 years of the British and European theatre (re please, theatre) was, like this sentence, long, long, long. I kept thinking as I pounded away, Are these people ever going to die?! They did. A bio of the Queen Mum was okay, if you like twee and lilacs. I kept hoping she'd beat up a chamber maid or do a hit and run on the Duchess of Windsor or at least spill a little of the pink gin, but no. William Shawcross's new 1000 page "authorized" bio of the late Royal Mother is on my list. The papers thanked the abdication crisis for adding a little spice to the sugar, even a spot of bother but that isn't until page 431! I may lose weight on that one. "The Tenors" had the attractive Placido-Luciano-Jose buddy boy photo on the dust jacket, but you'd better want to know about Heddle Nash and the rest of 'em too.

And then there's "Practising Catholic" by James Carroll. He focuses on the 60s,when he was studying for the priesthood with the socially aware Paulist Fathers, and its nice to see a hero made of the Prince of my youth, Richard Cardinal Cushing, who survives today in memory as an irascible old guy with more than a touch of the Irish virus. His diplomatic skills and bloody smarts are shown time and again. Reading light this is not, but a provocative, sometimes infuriating bloody good read it certainly is. Books like this will keep me going to the gym. Tell me I'm losing weight. Go ahead, lie to me!

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