Friday, February 19, 2010

Daily Photo 2.18.10 (plus book recommendations)

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Had a meeting today with various mucky-mucks in my company, and so on & so forth, blah blah blah, the gist being: I realized just before the meeting that the event was to take place within walking distance of the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton Highlands. I emitted a little squee.

The NE Mobile Book Fair is not mobile, and it's not a fair. Maybe it was at one time, I don't know -- but at the moment it's a warehouse filled floor to ceiling with books on every conceivable topic, of every age, fiction, nonfiction, children's books, bargain books, remainders, books in foreign languages, books you didn't realize were being printed anymore *, books impossible to find in big-box stores, literature for every purpose and taste. It's the Costco of book stores. Every time I go there I wonder why I don't go there more often, and every time I'm in there I wonder if I could hide in the back and live there without anybody knowing. I probably could've, this time. There was an unattended door open to the back rooms, and I could see in there. I could've found a nice spot to hide until nightfall.

I was there to find books on Pieter Breugel the Elder, a Flemish Renaissance painter who created beautiful jam-packed landscapes. His paintings are sort of rare around here, so Nik asked me to see if there were any books of his work with good quality prints. Either that or we go to Austria, because apparently that's where they're hogging the Breugels. I love his work as well -- his paintings are extraordinarily detailed and funny, and remind me of what's in the potato barn at the end of Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard. (You didn't realize a blog as rife with profanity as this one could make with the highbrow references, eh?)

Anyway, I didn't find any Breugel books. But I did find this:

Fuck me, what's that? It's "Brushing Mom's Hair," a children's book written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by my very own wife! If only there were some way you could buy a copy without having to visit the New England Mobile Book Fair yourself.

It still gives me a thrill to see Nik's books on a store shelf, and I'm always struck by an impulse to buy all the copies -- which would make no goddam sense, because then there wouldn't be any left for anyone else, which is the point of publishing a book for others. So I was happy to pick this one up, thumb through (almost as if for quality control, to make sure there were no pages stuck together or bound upside down or something), and reshelve it.

We've recently joined Audible.com for a year's membership, so that's been the primary way I've been ingesting my literature. I read for a living. When I come home, I have very little time to do much of anything, and there are various and sundry hobbies and activities and duties that take up my time, none of which allow me to sit quietly with a printed book. If I didn't listen to audiobooks while I shop or cook or run, I'd likely not read anything at all (sort of like the way I've been living for the past couple of years, which I'm hoping turns out to be kind of my own personal Dark Ages). Anyway -- my point is, while I love being able to consume literature again at my own pace with Audible, it unfortunately robs me of one of my great joys: roving through stacks of books up to the ceiling with my head cocked at a 60° angle to the right so I can read the spines, finding interesting books by accident, holding them and riffling the pages to hear the thick, almost digestive noise of the paper flipping from my thumb. One of the happiest memories of my life was going on a 2-week vacation with Nik to Bar Harbor one year where we did nothing but read books -- we prepared weeks before by going to a bookstore, performing the head-cock-discovery-and-riffle dance with over a dozen books each and buying them all with the clerk looking like he'd hit the lottery.

The point of this is, I find it mentally revitalizing to roam book stacks and browse and buy something, and for the last several years I've needed mental revitalization. And even though I'm now an Audible member I felt it would be criminal not to leave the NEMBF without picking up at least one. I mean, fucking hell -- they're just going to sit there, unread, staring out like dogs at the pound unless I take one home. For a while I was going to buy Karlology by Karl Pilkington, a great find considering how I hadn't seen it in any other bricks-and-mortar bookstore. That's the kind of thing that the NEMBF carries that you can't find anywhere else. But I put Karlology back, in case I could find it on Audible, so I could get it that way and hear Karl's bizarre shit as described in his Mancunian accent. It isn't on Audible, so I got screwed there.

I settled instead on a gift for Nik, a sealed-in-cellophane copy of The Blue Aspic by Edward Gorey. He's one of her favorite authors and illustrators, and mine too, kind of a secret hero of mine who I don't talk about much and read enough, who had the kind of writing career and bravado and humor that I covet painfully -- which may be why I don't talk about him much, come to think of it. The Blue Aspic is one of his best books. It tells the parallel stories of an opera diva named Ortenzia, who becomes increasingly famous and removed from the world as the story goes on, and Jasper Ankle, a fan of Ortenzia's who sinks deep into despair, stalking, and eventually madness. Spoiler alert (it's only 64 pages and the plot is really secondary to how the story resolves itself): It ends with Jasper escaping an insane asylum, finally coming face-to-face Ortenzia for the first time, and stabbing her in the throat.

At the cash register, the cashier told me: "He used to shop here." Meaning Edward Gorey. "He used to come here all the time and check out the remainders. Wore the big fur coat and everything."

I was stunned. "He have a cat lounging on his shoulders when he came in?"

"No -- just the fur coat."

I left just afterward. Remind me not to let it take another year or so before I go back -- and I'm bringing a pillow next time, because I'm going to live in there and that's all there is to it.

---

* Case in point, I found a stack three feet high of copies of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, containing everything you ever wanted to know about the entire Star Trek universe. I thumbed through one slightly dented phone-book-thick copy, found an entry labeled "exocomps" and spontaneously nerdgasmed. I didn't buy it because I couldn't justify the cost, given the existence of Memory-Alpha.org. But then again, the encyclopedia did have extensive diagrams of the ships. I may return and get it.

1 comment:

funderson said...

wonderful! It was like I was there too..thanks for the trip!

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