Posts Tagged ‘books’

Book Fetish

July 7, 2010

More a collector than a reader

Books to be returned…

Once I read a book, that’s it. I’m done. It’s not that I haven’t absolutely loved certain books– The Red and the Black, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Tao of Pooh, Tropic of Cancer, The Sheltering Sky, On the Road, White Oleander, The Book of Ruth, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Mademoiselle du Maupin, Madame Bovary, Leo Buscaglia’s “Living, Loving, Learning,” Anaȉs Nin’s “Journal of a Wife,” etc.– but there are far too many new books out there that I simply can’t justify re-reading anything.

Collecting books is a different story…I have a true fetish for books. In fact, I have about seven different editions of The Red and the Black. If there’s anything I’ve read more than once, it’s probably that.

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Not So Black Friday

November 29, 2008

I went to the bookstore late this afternoon, hoping for a miracle of human kindness. I bought a copy of my favorite magazine, PRINT. I roamed around the aisles looking for gifts. Perused the science, history and art sections. But nothing struck me as out of the ordinary.  To kill some time I people watched in the cafe while sipping a latte, tagging random customers with health statistics I read earlier in Time Magazine:

Girl in the cookbook section: one of the 67% of Americans that are either fat or obese.

Fortysomething scruffy man with white beard perusing art books; drawing his wife’s attention to erotic art: one of the 27% of Americans whose blood pressure is too high.

Hipster lurking around the self-help section: one of 96% of the population that can’t recall the last time they had a salad…

There were no crowds. I was disappointed. I expected to wait in line. To suffer. I wanted a small taste of suffering. I wanted to struggle through a crowd so that I could say to someone, “Why are we here? This is insane.” I wanted to make that connection with people. Like what happens during a natural disaster. The way everyone pulls together when the floods ruin homes and uproot trees. But that didn’t happen. I was the first in line and the check-out girl rang me up fast and pleasant. I was gone in minutes. Thanks for shopping at Borders. No high-strung, beaten-down nastiness.  In fact, she gave me a coupon. And said, “come back soon.” That pissed me off. So I went to Cosi to struggle over there but the place was empty. I bought a greasy flat bread sandwich, chips, a soda and left. 

Even the roads were wide open. 

I went home and built a fire. Cleaned. And put on the soundtrack to the Darjeeling Limited.

I sat in front of the fire eating my sandwich, flipping through PRINT, thinking.

I thought about how important Black Friday is for the purpose of well-being; how necessary the insanity of shopping for Christmas gifts one day out of the year, pushing and shoving obnoxious people out of the way to get the sale items, and fighting to be the first in line  is to the core of human nature. Days like this that only come once a year are supposed to awaken in us that sense of primitive, collective struggle. That feeling that “we’re all in this together.” No matter how lame or ridiculous the reason is for coming together (shopping) it’s still an important event that our psyche requires. The struggle, no matter how trivial, answers a primitive need to war with people and to make peace in difficult times. With that gone– with everyone home on their laptops, or ordering through catalogues– we become sadly isolated. Further disconnected.

I thought that maybe after forty years of specious commercialism people wizened up, staying home, saving money and not falling victim to some primordial, reptilian brain calling. But that didn’t make much sense. I myself consciously went and sought out the drama. 

My final thought was a simple assumption: because we’ve been dealing with such national tragedy anyway (global warming, the economy) people don’t need Black Friday anymore. Black Friday served a great purpose for inciting extremism when nothing else in the country was going on. I mean, this year, only one “Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down.” Only one! That’s huge progress. Usually a dozen or so die from being trampled by shoppers.

But Black Friday serves little purpose now. Who needs to be trampled at Wal-Mart when you’ve already been beaten down by the stock market? Who needs to stand in line and make friends over bargain books when people’s sons and daughters are overseas at war? Now that I think about it, I don’t know what I was thinking. 

When I finished reading my $20 copy of PRINT, I threw it in the fire.

Who needs commercialism and advertising when you’ve got a head full of free ideas and a warm home?

Leap Year

June 5, 2008

He used earth words and planted gardens and liked going down south and road trips to nowhere. He had tattoos of the Devil on his forearm, and looked like God, with big blue open seeing gentle eyes that had a spirit steady and true beyond the simple human spirit. He was a great kisser. Like me. But quiet. And deep. Not deep in a click-your-fingers-at-a-coffeehouse deep; not even the kind of temporary deep you think you see in the face of a student of philosophy. He was deep like rivers that cut through canyons as old as the brachiopod lingula and the horse shoe crab.

 

I met him when I was young. In a bookstore.  Buying war novels for my father. I liked to call him Mr. Smith, but his name was Steve. His hair was long and kinky and I remember I could smell his clean, hippy, 25-year-old smell as he flushed spines in the history section.  He said to me: “You see, you have this calming affect on me. I actually want to struggle with you.” And I thought to myself, I want to run my fingers through the algebraic recipe that cooked up the lines of your hair. I was on fire. I perused picture books of the American desert and listened to Navajo tunes. I bought a dress with flowers that came down to my ankles and I wore sandals.

 

He struggled with me. And then he took off. Restless. One day in May. He rode with some friends in an orange VW bus out to a reservation in New Mexico to study art and history and eat mushrooms and pledge a vow of celibacy to the Great Spirit in hopes that one day he would understand the difference between love and lust.

 

I waited. But he didn’t come back. The Spring was over. The warm, tired, lovesick days of August too, and eventually the fall and then the winter…

 

I fell for a waiter. I made love to a Jew who became a Rabbi. I danced meringue with Paul Garcia in a club named Brazil. I kissed Doug, Scot and Eamon and the Twelve Apostles and a Moroccan named Arie. And I sold my soul to a drummer one Leap Year because I lost count on how many times he said: you are so beautiful, baby.

 

I married a Spaniard who barely spoke English and barely brushed his teeth. He was tall and lanky and had a long face like El Greco and chased me around the bedroom, “Come here, wife. My sex is hard for you.” We lived in a piso on the 4th floor of a rundown building in Vallekas, a gypsy suburb of Madrid. I made tortillas and arroz con leche and sometimes crouched on the terraza under the hot sun and watched stray cats fuck on rooftops. I cried for home. And dreamed of humidity and the green, oxygen pine trees and grass that grows with dew stuck to each blade like a rock climber descending a cliff.

 

I became a woman. Desired. Pedestaled. Unwoven. Torn. Shredded. Real.

 

I made two babies. Moved to Jersey. Bought a home. Divorced. Years passed. In the Spring of ’04 I spread my father’s ashes across the jetty down on Nebraska Avenue. Saying goodbye to the man who taught me how to love. Boyfriends came. Boyfriends went. Sons grew up.

 

I bumped into Mr. Smith at a record store one night in February. He was buying vinyl and I was perusing the Cds. I barely recognized him without his long hair. But he still talked smooth and his tattoos were all black and green. And I thought, if I had my own they wouldn’t be the face of the devil. They’d be words. Words that save me from my self, where God, not man, is the Second Coming and the Third and Fourth. Words when strung together become the only thing in life that’s real—forming a straight line like Time to a Westerner.

 

We talked about books for a while. The west.  He didn’t remember much. And so I shrugged when he asked if I wanted to go for a drink. No, I said. Maybe another time.