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That thing in my hand is a book; I'm reading it

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

They can read all about it.

-- Emile Sande

I have a confession to make: I like to read.

No, not the latest blog on what REALLY happened in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26 or the daily inspirational mass email about a real American who was banished to the streets because of Obamacare but overcame it by listening to the wisdom of Bill O'Riley or the increasingly inane ramblings of the likes of Michael Reagan, who takes the art of living off a deceased relative's name to new lows.

I like books.

Let me correct myself. I love books. It all started with a girl back in high school who made me promise to read "The Thorn Birds." Her name was Sandra, and while I was like most country boys in my thinking that there was something, well, a little off about guys reading, she turned out to be a pretty good barterer.

But I ended up getting the best of the deal.

My first reading obsession was Stephen King ... "Salem's Lot" scared the bejesus out of me -- Mr. Barlow was definitely not the wimpy Bill Compton type of vampire -- and I was hooked.

Next came a need to read every word written by Georgia's greatest modern novelist, the incomparable Pat Conroy. Then I got hooked on Elmore Leonard, whose dialogue is unsurpassed, then the amazing James Lee Burke (I'm reading his just-released "Light of the World" right now, and 40 pages in I've found myself as lost in Dave Robicheaux's amazing world as I've ever been) and then Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher is such a compelling character the fact that the height-challenged Tom Cruise played the 6-foot-3 former MP in the movie didn't even faze me.

Now I'm a library junkie; albeit one of those annoying old-school ones who wouldn't think of reading on some contraption called a Nook or a Kindle or any other such. I find myself as excited these days about the release of a new Michael Connelly or Don Winslow or Dennis LeHane or Jo Nesbo or Charlie Huston or David Baldacci or George Pellicanos or Tom Wolf novel as I do a new Pearl Jam, U2, Vampire Weekend, Skrillex, Elton John, Eminem, Rolling Stones or Robert Plant album.

When I go out for a bite to eat by myself or arrive early at an event I'm covering for this newspaper, I usually have a book with me. If there's no one else around to chat with, I read. And even though I've been told repeatedly how "weird" it is for a grown-up heterosexual man to read a book when he could be ... well, doing anything that's more manly than reading ... I'll just be diplomatic and say I've advanced well beyond caring the equivalent of my concern for the posterior section of a rodent what other people think of me or the activities I engage in.

So you go mud-boggin' or knock back a few with the boys at the local pub or honor your God-given second amendment rights by shootin' something or sit around and gossip about the people you work with. If your proper Southern upbringing compels you to try and include me in your activities out of some sense of politesse, save it for someone else.

I've got a book ... I'm good.

A little post script while we're on the subject of reading: I was curious when I first heard all the uproar over Rolling Stone magazine's putting Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its Aug. 1 issue. After reading the story, I was confused.

Why was this worthy of national condemnation?

Story writer Janet Reitman in no way tried to glorify this person she called in her article a monster. She simply did what no other journalist covering the story had done: talked with the people who knew the two brothers who killed three people and injured hundreds more with their improvised bombs at the finish line of the April 15 Boston Marathon. Rather than sensationalize, as so many supposedly legitimate news-gathering professionals had done, Reitman went out and got the real story.

I read in the aftermath of the story's release tons of criticism of the magazine: much of it from people you'd expect to register such complaints and much of it along the lines of "What do you expect, it's Rolling Stone? It's just a rock and roll magazine."

Yep, it's Rolling Stone, one of the few magazines left with the courage and talent to gather, write and print the news that impacts the world. There's no better political writer today (maybe no better journalist, period) than Matt Taibbi; David Fricke has more knowledge of music than all but a few people alive, and the magazine lists among its contributing writers Pulitzer Prize winners like Paul Krugman.

Oh, and lest we forget, it was Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings who, with his in-depth imbedded reporting from Afghanistan, brought to an end the reign of America's most powerful military leader, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Not bad for just a rock and roll magazine.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.