Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I am dedicating today’s post to confessions. I don’t know why, I just am, is all. So, bless me Reader, for I have sinned. It’s been, oh, close to, gee, a damn long time since my last confession.

Sin No. 1

When I first started working for the library, one of the things I had to do was help sort the books being returned to the various branches around town. It was a dangerous job. Why dangerous, you ask? Because I would invariably come across a ton of books I wanted to read, and would all too often leave work having checked out a whole armload full. And it would come dangerously close to pulling my arms out of their sockets, lugging that pile home. Never mind that I knew I would probably not have time to read them all before they were due; I just couldn’t help myself. I was finally able to exert some self-control, and learned to put back more copies than I had set aside, but the urge was still there. That’s been over 20 years ago. It would seem I still suffer from the same malady.

With the summer months causing an uptick in circulation, resulting in a backlog of unsorted material, plus being somewhat short-staffed today, I found myself sorting books again this morning. Shall I share with you the stack of books currently sitting on my desk, waiting to see if they make the final cut? Here they are:

  1. The Shipping News –Annie Proulx

  2. Monologue of a Dog—Wislawa Szymborska

  3. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind—Julian Jaynes

  4. The Technology of Orgasm—Rachel P. Maines (hey, the title alone is worth a look, right?)

  5. All my Friends are Superheroes—Andrew Kaufman

  6. The Insufferable Gaucho—Roberto Bolano

  7. Herzog—Saul Bellow

  8. Antwerp—Roberto Bolano

  9. The Urban Homestead—Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen

  10. The Reading Promise—Alice Ozma

  11. The Ginger Man—J.P. Donleavy

  12. Cloud Atlas—David Mitchell

  13. Selected Non-Fictions—Jorge Luis Borges

  14. On American Literature—H. L. Mencken

There. Now I feel totally ashamed of myself. There is no way I’m going to get through these. So my first sin is one of Gluttony. Pure gluttony. Especially considering I’m still chewing my way through Gass’ “The Tunnel.” Damn, I started that book several months ago, and I’m still reading it!? Due mainly through putting it down, picking it up, putting it down again, etc… too many times to mention. But, as the riddle goes: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. As it stands, I am beginning to think I will finish it. I have picked up some speed and have been reading it fairly religiously of late, due to one or all of the following reasons:

  1. Just wanting to finish the damn thing

  2. Finding a good rhythm with it, and really getting to enjoy it

  3. Itching to start another thick, forbidding tome (Gaddis’ “The Recognitions,”) and not daring to start it until I finish this one!

Sin No. 2

Now I think I should provide some background as to why some of these titles are sitting on my desk. How about the two Bolano’s? Well, there are a couple of reasons for them. First, I’ve always wanted to read him, but cannot, for the nonce commit to "2666," or even "The Savage Detectives." Secondly, they’re short. Real short. Quick, easy reads. Which brings me to my second sin. I set myself a reading challenge for this year. 50 books.

Okay, it really hurt to admit that. I’ve always considered reading goals to be ridiculous. I mean, I read for quality, not quantity. Who sets reading goals? Morons, that's who. I still don’t know why I did it in the first place. But I did it, and for some reason, I feel compelled to stick with it (if for no other reason than to teach myself a lesson.) I’m tracking it on one of the book sites I belong to, Goodreads. I hardly ever go on there anymore, much preferring Librarything. But Goodreads has a feature that makes it easy to keep track of the books you have read, and lets you know how far behind you are with respect to your goal. Currently, I’m five books behind schedule. Mainly due to, yes, you guessed it, The Tunnel. That monster has pretty much scared off any other book that might have gotten anywhere near me.

So, the only way I'm going to even come close to my quota (*shudder*) is by knocking out a few short ones. By the way, No. 2 and 5 on the above list are pretty darn short, which is probably why they are on there.

Sin No. 3

And this is a big one. A veritable DOOZIE. Are you ready? I love the Harry Potter books. Gasp! Did I actually say that out loud? Oh no, what was I thinking?! Quick! Catch that cat, and put it back in the bag! I was j-j-just kidding, heh-heh. Just a joke, see? Oh, it's too late. Boy, I can’t believe I’m actually admitting it. Yes, this is something I’ve kept to myself for lo these many years. But it feels good to finally get it off my chest.

I will now share with you how I got hooked on them. Let us go back about 10 years to November of 2001. The film adaptation for the first book has just been released. Unbeknownst to me, my wife of 8 months had been reading the books, and really wanted to see the movie. I was flabbergasted. Of course, I already knew that when it came to books, we had no shared tastes whatsoever. She read practically nothing but mysteries. I, on the other hand, was, and still am, an unrepentant, card-carrying, insufferable Book Snob. Actually, if you ask my wife, she will tell you I am a snob about everything, but I’ll speak to that in another post. I was only able to rationalize ignoring our disparate reading tastes and agreeing to tie the knot by telling myself that at least there are some well-written mysteries out there, eg. Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, …, well, that’s pretty much it. But Harry Potter?! Who the hell was I married to? Did I even know her anymore? Harry Potter?!! Have you lost your bleedin’ mind, woman? Is it too late to get an annulment? Those are trash, drivel, low-brow garbage that only a child (and we’re talking a not very bright child here, but one with a vacant stare and goofy grin who is prone to drool while sitting in a corner, rocking back in forth) could enjoy reading. Of course, I had never even cracked one open, but being a Book Snob, I knew all of this to be true.

But she is adamant about wanting to go see the movie, and so, trying to be the good husband I reluctantly, protesting the whole time, mind you, agree to accompany her to it.

The theater was filled with spastic little snot-nosed brats all dressed up in their robes and wizard hats, and I couldn’t believe I was there with them. Ugh. I would definitely need to take a shower when I got home, and maybe even pop in a real movie, like “The Seventh Seal” (best movie ever made, by the way) to assist in erasing from my memory the insipid crap I was about to be forced to endure.

And what do you know? I actually enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t just enjoy it. I loved it! I fell in love with the characters, the story line, everything! The next day I checked out the first book, and read it. Actually, I didn’t so much read it as devour it. I believe there were already four of the books out by then and I read each one with as much zeal and hunger as the first. I’m sure if you had seen me while I was reading them, I probably had a vacant look in my eyes, a goofy grin on my face, and a bit of drool leaking out the corner of my mouth. But as I sat there rocking back in forth, with my Harry Potter book in my hands, I was in heaven.

So, Reader, what shall be my penance and punishment for my sins? For this last one, I suppose, at the very least, I will have to relinquish my Book Snob card?

1 comment:

  1. There is only one penance for book sin: read more books. Specifically, you must read one page of Finnegans Wake each night, and meditate upon the meaning of each damned word. Do this religiously for a fortnight.

    The Szymborska and the Borges caught my eye. I love both of them.

    And I do think you can remain a literati and enjoy Potter. You can always fall back on Chesterton's defense of the penny dreadful. I don't count myself as a Pottery fan. I'd rather see the movies than spend the time with the books. Not because they are bad, but because they don't tickle my fancy enough to warrant the time investment. Something about school tales doesn't ring my bells. I'd rather read then than read another Saramago novel. I know this is a criminal opinion -- I want to like his books, but I always get half way through and find myself actively disliking them. Not sure why.