A Cartographer of Tiny Perfect Things

A map of tiny perfect things.

A Cartographer of Tiny Perfect Things

Curation is what I do.

I grew up in a house full of books. My father is a voracious reader, and he gravitated toward action-adventure and sports (he has some very early editions of Ian Fleming Bond books). He also has an extensive silver age DC comics collection I tore through when I was young. I remember begging him to go up in the attic where they were kept so I could grab a new handful.

Consequently, I became a reader myself. This is an aspect of myself that is constantly changing. As they say, the only thing constant is change. I consistently was reading books, magazines, or comics since I could remember. Today, my reading has evolved because my interaction with words now has so many levels it is sometimes difficult to parse.

When I was growing up, things were simple: my house was full of books. I loved going to bookstores. I would literally get books for Christmas and birthdays and be incredibly happy. We would go on vacations, and I would bring more than one book to read. Those days, I probably read more silly Star Trek novels and a few science fiction classics.

At some point in this post-high-speed internet world, I stopped reading books as much as I used to do. I discovered blogs and Blogger. I read so much on the internet, and I wrote a lot of blog posts that actually buying a book and reading it became much less of a thing I did.

My attention shifting to online reading and writing was a blessing and a curse. I loved having the immediacy of blogs, and I could read a diverse group, but it also stunted my ability to read long-form.

This shift in my habits all happened post-college for me. I could read my college assignments and read for pleasure at the same time easily. I reread the Foundation series and Dune during college and read a bunch of Shakespeare and Whitman. In graduate school, I had to do more research writing and pulled from all sorts of new sources. I used not only books and textbooks but long-form articles and academic writing. I never considered it out of the ordinary to have a non-academic book with me all the time and still concentrate on my school reading.

A map of tiny perfect things.

Today, I certainly am reading fewer books or at least fewer fictional tales. Lately, I’ve gone in spurts. In the last couple of years, I’ve read John Scalzi’s Interdependency Series, Wanderers by Chuck Wendig, Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski, the two Ted Chiang collections, The Paper Menagerie collection by Ken Liu, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, and The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman, This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline, and How Lucky by Will Leitch. Currently, I’m reading To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini. When written out like that, it feels like a lot, but it isn’t that much.

Of course, I’m still taking in so much text every day. From emails and work-related copy to everything I consumer via Inoreader, I read a lot of words. I’m also writing a bunch of words for work and pleasure. I’m also still trying to finish my essay/short story collection, and I’m just not getting anywhere on that front.

With my reading both sporadic and overflowing, I don’t have a good memory of what I read just a few days ago. Especially with work copy, I’m editing or even writing. After a week, I won’t recall what I was doing with it.

On the other hand, to take my mind on a journey from the written page, I have to commit. I must be willing to live in the author’s worldbuilding. More often than not, my imagination is captured. There is still a spark that stirs inside me while reading a good book. A carefully constructed story slowly shifts one’s perspective. It happened a lot with the Chiang and Liu stories. After finishing, the stories consistently linger in the back of my mind. Everyone has a list of books whose ideas or characters stay with them.

Good stories and ideas have saturated every medium. If it entertains, you are going to find it not only in books and short stories but also in blogs, magazines, podcasts, games, social media, and, of course, on-screen in short videos, TV shows, and films. There is so much good material being put out into the world it is overwhelming. We are living in a golden age of entertainment.

A carefully constructed story slowly shifts one’s perspective.

In today’s media landscape, there is a firehose of ideas, both good and bad. Through this plethora of information, I have to become a curator of news and entertainment. To paraphrase a title from Lev Grossman, I have become a cartographer of tiny perfect things.

Organizing and consuming all the good things is still a challenge. I used to keep track of all the various things that moved me on a Tumblr site. Now, I simply don’t have the time to catalog as much as I’d like. Still, I want to read more, watch more, and experience more perfect things.

Is this wrong? I don’t think so. Wanna join me?

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