Monday, November 23, 2009

Book 33: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

This damn book sat on my shelf like an albatross for close to 10 years.

I first tried to read it when I still lived in New York City. I next tried to read it when I still lived in New York City.

Then I tried to read it on our family vacation to Cape Cod. Then I tried to read it the next summer on our family vacation to Lake Sunapee.

Then I tried to read it in Los Angeles. Then I tried to read it in Los Angeles again. Then I tried again to read it in Los Angeles...again.

Each time I would get to the same point in the book, roughly 15,000 years ago when modern society started to evolve. Perhaps I was not advanced enough to care about my past, perhaps I couldn't relate to the main character (i.e. Earth), perhaps I was too busy using my own blood and fecal matter to paint on the walls of my apartment. Whatever the underlying causes, I was categorically unable to finish this book.

And now a small digression in which I prove that public transportation is good for something other than saving the environment.

Due to financial considerations, Melody and I share a car. There is an easy bus line that takes me to work from where I live. I reluctantly dug up the schedule, charged my iPod and set out to be one of the few who regularly uses THE BUS in Los Angeles.

This is why I was able to finally keep turning the pages of 'Guns, Germs and Steel' until I reached the final one.

One morning I was heading out with my $1.25 in my hand. I'd finished 'The Dark Tower' series for the 4th time and was feeling a bit sheepish about my literary choices. Frankly I wanted to seem smarter to the rest of the idiots on the bus - y'know, the people who yell intimate conversations to their girlfriends, who try to eat soup while standing, who pick their nose right in front of you, who yell at the bus driver for the traffic or because they got on the wrong bus and it isn't stopping where they imagine it should.

There lay 'Guns, Germs and Steel'. The White Elephant in the corner. I grit my teeth. I bared my gums. I picked it up and started again.

For roughly the 37th time.

This time I was determined that it would be different. I reached the onset of modern man within a week and pressed bravely on. I marveled at the travel of seeds from the Fertile Crescent to the Far East! I lorded my intellectual pursuit over my fellow morons on the bus.

And then a funny thing happened.

I got really into it.

And then I had to admit that I was a moron like everyone else. I didn't eat soup on the bus, but I drank coffee and almost spilled it on people. I had conversations on my cell phone that were too loud and too private. I don't think I picked my nose but I wouldn't want to swear on a stack of Bibles to that effect.

But I'd swear on 'Guns, Germs and Steel' which turned out to be one of the best books I almost never read.