Blog: Half the Fun of Books
I went to Normals Bookstore today. I like going to used bookstores because I think it’s the literary equivalent of getting a rescue dog. I often forget that I live so close to Normals and don’t go half as much as I should. Though, I suppose Parisians don’t get engaged under the Eiffel Tower too often either. This isn’t a bookstore review however. I wouldn’t be saying anything that locals haven’t read in the City Paper anyways, but I will say this: if your bookstore’s shelves don’t sag, you need to make some serious life changes.
It won’t surprise you to know that I love books, and bookstores are probably my favorite places to go to. I look like I belong in a bookstore. I even worked at one for a couple summers out of high school. I told this to a girl once, and she told me she would never want to mix love with work. It’s one of the smartest things I ever heard.
Every time I go to a bookstore, I am reminded of Rob in High Fidelity who arranges his record collection autobiographically because it’s comforting. This is how I feel in a bookstore; reminded of myself, comforted. I look at the spines of books and remember things, people, stories that I don’t normally think about. To quote Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.”
We literary types are defined by the books we read. It’s in our nature, it’s our thing. Other people probably get the same way over their thing – food recipes, records, car parts, whatever – but for us it’s books. They say the most about us.
I saw two copies of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugendids sitting side-by-side. I was reminded of the mother of my nephew who, in her house, has two copies of Middlesex living together as well. It seems this book mates for life. I thought about buying one of them, but I didn’t want to separate them. I wanted them to have each other.
I saw a copy of Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons and remembered when it first came out. I was in high school. My English teacher offered extra credit to anyone who read the book. I refused on some moral ground that, now, I don’t remember exactly, and couldn’t have been that moral to begin with.
I found a book that has been on my list for a couple of years now, The Name of the World by Denis Johnson. This book has been elusive to say the least. I thought about buying it off Amazon plenty of times, but that always feels like cheating, and cheapens half the fun of books for me, finding them. It’s like that book has been waiting patiently on the shelf of Normals for me, and only me, to find. I found you book. You can come home with me.
I also bought The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories by Charles Bukowski. I had to have this book because on the inside cover was written the name of its previous owner. I know nothing about Dan Hanrahan except that his hands have been the same places that mine have, and that’s enough for me. (Side note: I lied. I searched Dan Hanrahan on Google and think I found him. The internet is a creep show’s paradise.)
I also bought a book I know nothing about called Coyote v. Acme by Ian Franzier because I thought the title was hilarious, and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs because why not buy Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. I thought about getting James Joyce’s Ulysses, but I couldn’t figure out how to buy it without looking like someone who just bought Ulysses. I’m convinced that people who read Ulysses all the way though are people who want to say, “I read Ulysses all the way though” at dinner parties. The thing I don’t understand about these people is why they don’t just lie about it. No one is going to question you on the plot of Ulysses.
I paid the man behind the counter $22 and some change and walked home with my new stories. I can’t wait for these stories to have stories attached to them by me. The things I wish I hadn’t said to strangers while I was reading Naked Lunch, or the first time I got locked out of my apartment at 1 a.m. and had to sleep in my car and used that Bukowski book with the blue cover as a pillow. This is all hypothetical of course. I don’t know what part of my life these books will represent on my bookshelf biography, but I know they will hold something particular to them, and that’s the other half of the fun about books, finding them.