It’s been a week since I announced, to much fanfare, that I am reading Richard Ben Cramer’s Epic, “What it Takes,” about the 1988 Presidential election.
Here’s how it’s going so far.
After 1 week of reading, I am 201 pages into the 1,051 page book. So far, I have been introduced to both Republican candidates, George Bush and Bob Dole, and two of the promised four Democrats, Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis.
While 200 pages sounds pretty good for one week’s worth, that number is skewed a bit by a pair of 3 and a half hour train trips between New York and Boston. In reality, the reading breaks down like this:
Night 1: Author’s Note and first 30 pages
Night 2: 5 pages
Night 3: 7 pages
Train Trip 1: 20 pages
Train Trip 2: 120 pages
Night 6: 19 pages
So, clearly, my attention levels have ebbed and flowed a bit.
I find I’m most interested in the day to day political machinations and less interested in hearing about the backgrounds of the individual candidates. It was interesting to find out that Bob Dole played basketball for Phog Allen at Kansas, though. Also, there’s been just a tease about Gary Hart’s extramarital problems. Turns out he was originally caught because a former Senate colleague was having him tailed. The colleague thought Hart was banging his wife. He was not.
The challenge, however, is more than just mental. Reading a paperback book this size also has some physical manifestations. Namely, it is very difficult to hold comfortably while reading. At this point, my left hand and wrist begin to ache slightly while I’m reading an even numbered page (on the left side, when the book is open on a table.) The pain subsides when I’m able to fold over and read the odd numbered pages. I expect this to become more difficult as I get deeper into the book and the ability to fold over half of it becomes impossible.
Last week, I placed the over/under for me completing this book at 5 months. Despite the fact that I’m nearly 20 percent through after only 1 week, I think I’m going to keep the line there for now. I foresee more struggles and less multiple hour reading sessions ahead. Place your bets in the comments section.