After surprisingly dry and technical previous book by otherwise favourite Graham Hancock, the time has come to break away from science, cosmos, ancient civilisations and aliens - now I needed good, old fashioned story where each chapter leads to another, where pages are turning by themselves. Before I turned on to my virtual library that by now has more than 1 700 titles (and the whole process of browsing already becomes tedious), I have mentioned "Tales of the City" to a good friend who just pulled it off from his bookshelf so I ended up with a real, physical book as opposed to something digital and immediately discovered how inconvenient it is to lie in a bed nibbling on snacks with a book in my hand (computer kind of makes it easier). Balancing the book, chocolate and earphones, trying not to leave choco fingerprints everywhere, it was a bit difficult and I never imagined that I would come to point where I am so used to digital books that holding the real thing in my hands will be a problem.
The most interesting thing is - I have actually read "Tales of the City" many years ago but I don't remember a thing, except the title. Which brings me to conclusion that basically all I remember from the books I have read during my lifetime are impressions - "good, bad, exciting, boring, trash, guilty pleasure, etc" - but for the life of me I genuinely don't really remember the books themselves, their characters and plots. The explanation for this might be everything - from the sheer immensity of the titles I have read to the fact that our brain perhaps stores new information's and erase the old ones (or I simply have Alzheimer) - but its a bit alarming that I am aware just of the titles and the general feeling, instead of actual stories. I can look at the books in my collection and recognising that yes, I have read them all, but if I start reading them again, it is very possible that now they would affect me differently, because I am not the same person who read them years ago. And this is why re-visiting some old favourites is such an interesting experience.
"Tales of the City" was initially published as a feuilleton, serial supplement attached to San Francisco Chronicle - in itself, this is a wonderful continuation of literary tradition where authors like Charles Dickens, Eugène Sue or Alexandre Dumas were thrilling the audiences each week with new chapters and these series were so massively popular that people on the streets discussed and talked about adventures of little Nell, Rodolphe and The Count of Monte Cristo. All of these, now famously classics had a humble beginnings as magazine serials, just like "Tales of the City" and they all had one thing in common - specific, story focused plots that avoided any excessive descriptions and are simply storytelling with exciting cliffhanger endings that motivate readers to continue reading the next chapter. (Nowadays we see cliffhangers in TV soap operas) I should also mention other honourable magazine serials like Sherlock Holmes, The Moonstone and Uncle Tom's Cabin. In my own Croatia we had immensely popular magazine serial "Grička vještica" ("The Witch from Grič") that dealt with dark days of the witch-hunts in Central Europe and this was definitely one of the guilty pleasures of my childhood, probably one of the main reasons why I eventually became a book lover. So simply because of its style of writing, "Tales of the City" is from the start immensely readable and impossible to put down ("unputdownable" is a perfect description).
I have just started yesterday and already gulped half of the book - where with Graham Hancock I had to be patient, focus on his meandering about measurements and calculations, how the the top of this megalith aligns with the solstice and constant repeating of the same ideas from chapter to chapter, here the pages were turning by themselves. Not unlike some delicious soap opera, "Tales of the City" weaves exciting story about citizens of 1970s San Francisco and how, one way or the other, their lives are all connected - I am taking the book with me to work today and no doubt I will finish it until end of the day.