Monday, February 7, 2011

Steve Hockensmith

Steve Hockensmith is the New York Times bestselling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

He also writes the “Holmes on the Range” mysteries for St. Martin’s Minotaur. The newest entry in the series, World’s Greatest Sleuth!, came out last month.

Recently I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
The last book I read, Kurt Vonnegut’s funny-sad-brilliant Hocus Pocus, took me three days. The book I’m reading now, on the other hand, has taken me close to three weeks...and I’ve still got 100 pages to go.

You’d think I was subjecting myself to War and Peace, but that’s not the case. It’s The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins that I’m crawling through. I’m enjoying the crawl, though! Don’t think I’m complaining. It’s just that the book -- an exhaustive (and devastating) critique of religion -- is so densely packed with ideas and arguments that I have to take it slowly. I usually read for half an hour each night, enough to take a decent-sized bite out of a Vonnegut novel, say. In the same amount of time with Dawkins’s book, however, I’m only getting through 10 or 15 pages. It looks like this is going to be my Book of the Month.

And that’s fine by me. Well, not entirely. Oh, to be a speed reader, zipping through Gravity’s Rainbow in the dentist’s waiting room; polishing off Infinite Jest while waiting for cookies to come out of the oven; ending the day with a nice, hot bath and quick rereading of The Brothers Karamazov!

Alas, such is not my life. But I’ve accepted that. I don’t mind taking my time with a book so long as I’m getting something out of it. And Lord knows I don’t always. I was on the Ulysses Death March for a week, slogging through perhaps 80 pages before realizing that I didn’t understand or even remember anything I’d read. It was like a Thesaurus had vomited, and someone slapped a cover on it and called it “Literature.” So I moved on to another book.

I hope it was a detective novel. Something with a subtitle like “A Brick McMasters Mystery.” That’d show ’em!

Only once has Dawkins come close to losing me like that. Way back in the ’70s, apparently, he created the concept of “memes” -- ideas that spread and evolve almost like living things. Cool! Not so cool: the sub-chapter of The God Delusion that Dawkins calls “Tread Softly, Because You Tread on My Memes.” I know. Sounds painful, doesn’t it? And not just the treading. The reading was pretty rough, too.

As I’m no longer in college, I don’t feel obligated to put in the hardcore rereading, analyzing and necessary to explain why the book had to get all meme-y. I will, however, offer a representative sentence from that particular section: “In this second stage of the process, memes were selected against the background of already existing meme pools, building up a new memeplex of mutually compatible memes.”

Look it up in the book if you want the full context. Then send me an e-mail explaining it. Please.

Fortunately, the meme-apalooza ended after another few pages, and it was back to arguments pulled from history, science and pure reason rather than anyone’s backside. If all goes smoothly, I should be done with the book in two weeks, max. Then it’ll be on to a palette cleanser.

Get ready, Brick McMasters, or whatever your name’s going to be. I’m coming for you.

Visit Steve Hockensmith's website.

The Page 69 Test: On the Wrong Track.

My Book, The Movie: Holmes on the Range.

The Page 99 Test: The Black Dove.

The Page 69 Test: The Crack in the Lens.

The Page 69 Test: World's Greatest Sleuth!.

--Marshal Zeringue