Thursday, December 27, 2007

in the toi-lit ...

i'm standing in barnes and noble with a good old fashioned case of soap-opera style amnesia. like my skull was lifted like a cookie jar lid; brain swabbed of any sort of literary recollection. i'm surrounded by approximately a trillion and a half books. i can't think of one that i want to read: no hardcovers i was waiting to morph into trade paperbacks; no new writers who have picqued my interest; no old writers i have wanted to read more of. or even if oprah's O-of-approval is something i like or loathe. forty dollars of gift cards jammed into my purse for naught.


who the hell am i?


this year has been conspicuously void of book. there is "endless love" -- which was stowed spread eagle at the base of the toilet until the binding broke. but as you know, this is just for my extended stays, legs propped on the edge of the bathtub -- not the casual stop, drop and drip. so eight months later, i just finished it five minutes ago.

"endless love," for the uninitiated, is not the greatest book of all time. it smells like 1974, and if it could it would grow leg hair. but it was pretty damn close to the perfect toilet read: or, toi-lit, if you will.


fact: like everyone else in the world, i read at an advanced level before the rest of my kindergarten classmates. i'm sure you did, too.


in college i took an advanced poetry writing class and we had an assignment to read a collection of someone else's work, someone successful's work, and critique it. my most well-received poem that year was about my classmate daniel's oversized and faded gap jeans, and how they hung from his artist-starved waist. [daniel's poem was about how all of his love for annamarie was carried in a leaky old bucket.]

i walked to the hungry mind bookstore and plopped down in front of the poetry section. a young male employee asked me if he could help me find anything specific. i explained the assignment and added:

"i want something recent, preferably by a woman, that i can understand."
he fondled his goatee and translated "hm ... contemporary, nonesoteric poetry by a female author ..." and stared off into space.
"um. right," i said.


fact: i pulled an all-nighter in elementary school, finishing the sweet valley high book where elizabeth wakefield's boyfriend todd moves away. to this day, bon jovi's "i'll be there for you" reminds me of todd and elizabeth.


i worked part time at an old downtown rochester theater that was converted into a barnes and noble off and on for about four years. and for about two years i worked at the store in highland park in st. paul. spending this much time around books, touching and smelling new copies, shelving fiction or even the language tapes and cds, turned me into ole goatee face from the hungry mind bookstore.

i learned to become pretty discriminate about my own reading. some things were only worthy of a quick scan in the breakroom -- the "endless love" sort of book -- and i brought some home. i also learned to blindly loathe anything that everyone in rochester was reading.

no "tuesday's with morrie," no "memoirs of a geisha," no "harry potter," no "celestine prophesy," no tami hoag or john grisham or nora roberts. no maeve binchy.

i was becoming a bit of a snob.


fact: my last actual boyfriend and i were lounging on the deck at the smiling moose. most of the customers were gone. i was about two tall honey weiss's deep. "if we had more money, we'd be just like the fitzgerald's," he mused.

i fell for him quite hard in that moment, even though that would probably make me zelda fitzgerald -- while colorful, also certifiably crazy.


fact: i averaged 62 books a year between 2003-2005.


fact: i have an entire bookcase in my apartment filled with things i thought i wanted to read, but became distracted away from the second i got something newer.


i'm trying to remember the last time i read something i really loved. it would probably date back two years to when i went all "complete collection" on jay mcinerney, then set out to read writers who were influenced by him and vice versa. then there was the addiction memoir phase ... i've gone through phases of just hemingway, just fitzgerald, susan orlean, and i really liked "kavalier and clay." "my misspent youth" by meghan daum remains in my top five.

i recently bought a barbara kingsolver book. i have been known to hate her.


i'm standing in barnes and noble, 40 dollars worth of gift cards, and i can't think of anything. my old cell phone had lists of books i wanted to read. things i read about online or in magazines. my old cell phone was stolen.

two hours later, the only title i can think of is "until we came to the end" by joshua ferris -- which is being panned, and panned hard, by one of my favorite bloggers.

and the store is closing, so that is what i buy.


Kristabella said...

I too read at an advanced level pre-K. And then I just sadly learned my blog has a reading level of a third grader. So apparently I didn't get much further.

I would have done the same thing as you in B&N. I usually only read what my book club tells me too, or when Jen Lancaster comes out with a new book.

Whiskeymarie said...

I'm having the same problem, so I decided to just cram all of the trashy reading I have been putting off into my brain at once.
Kind of like binging on fruity, sugary candy and sodas. Fun while you're doing it, but you feel kind of bloated, yet empty, when you're done.

But so far it's been fun.

Jodi said...

AHHHHH! Not the Ferris. I hope he does not scar you for life, like he did me.

You should take it back to B&N and go buy Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead or Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, or Jennifer Egan's The Keep or anything by Mary Gaitskill and Aimee Bender.

christina said...

wm -- had i read about the nikki sixx book before i went to bn, it would have topped my list. thankfully i did not blow the entire gift-card loot because i'm gonna read the heck out of that.

jodi -- for the record, i got it on sale for less than six dollars. and really, the amount of hatred you've expressed toward the book kind of sold me on it. i had to see just how bad.

anyway, i'm noting your suggestions. into my cell phone.

amy a. said...

"the keep" is so good. you can borrow my copy when i get it back from a neighbor.

Beverly said...

We were at Barnes & Noble today because my son was desperate to spend his Christmas money on the next "Naruto" book (he's up to No. 10). That's a series of Japanese anime comic books. The store allows homeschoolers to have educator discount cards, which is good for 20 percent off. Sometimes when we buy the comic books, the clerk will ask, "Is this for use in the classroom?" I'm always prepared to say a firm "Yes." I'm not lying, but I'm afraid they'll accuse me.

Mach1 said...

"Never Let Me Go" is easily my favorite of all the books I've read in the last three years or so. It's well-written enough to be considered art, but you're not conscious that you're doing yourself a favor when you're reading it because it's that good.

christina said...

and, mach1, i believe i have your copy in my living room. doh.