International Book Day – you’re forgiven for having missed it if you did, though I am a bit disappointed. Really now. Show some respect for your faithful, old, not-quite-imaginary friends. I’m sure I would have missed it, just like I missed World Meteorological Day. But then facebook told me about some hipsters who dropped paperbacks all over old-town Bucharest in a rather beautiful display of loyalty to pulp and the printed word.
Hours of angst ensued as I chewed on my horn-rim glasses, refining and re-refining my listing of top-three tomes in case someone might ask what my favorite might happen to be. And here I thought international book day was supposed to be a happy time, a time for celebration and reflection on the glorious print institution’s reliable provision of phrases and stories we can count like sheep as we try to call it a night.
Angst because my stalwarts are simply joyful and not nearly presumptuous enough. Not enough Mailer, Updike, Kazantzakis, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, no Sand and certainly no Brothers Karamzov (don’t get me started on the Brothers K – seriously, 900 pages of the same damn message, are Russian winters really that long?).
Not that I haven’t reveled in the Great Books at least once. Not that I didn’t enjoy them. But my list is determined more simply – – by those that have stuck with me throughout. Not the smartest or most enlightening of my reads. Not the most intriguing, perhaps. But old friends, with wrinkled covers and drying leaves that smell particularly of the years we’ve travelled together. The ones I actually carry through my moves. Perhaps they stand out because when I travel, I tend not to go back. Life is too short to go back. And I find books the same way, except these.
- The Lord of the Rings. Yep. Seriously. My brother read me the Hobbit (circa age 6). After asking if dragons really ate girls, the trilogy was a natural next step – perhaps the answer was in there. Alas, no dragons in the next 1,000 pages. And I checked a good 15 to 20 times over the years since that first exploration into Individualism, Good and Evil in the Nuclear age.
- Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. Read it. If you are a civil society geek, you’ll understand.
- American Gods. Found this one late and on recommendation. It remains an orgiastic rite of summer for this insider-outsider gringo/American who takes pleasure in seeing America through the eyes the Gods who shaped it’s people and the Brit who wrote them.
- The Milagro Beanfield War. Dark. Beautiful. Brilliant. And about northern New Mexico, which was home to my family for generations and, though I never lived there, remains more home to me than anywhere else in the States. Just one of those books. The smells it describes and the palate of colors all dance across my memories of Christmas vacations and summer camping.
Each of them special in their own way. Each of them unique characters. Fantastic in the truest sense of the word. They keep popping up in my life. Like girlfriends run into years later, they provide escapism into the familiar strange of introspection after you have moved to a new time, place and perspective.
As I walk by them on my shelf each day, I think about picking one up. But I don’t. My literary consumption has skyrocketed and I take them for granted amongst the daily news, a weekly Economist (yes, even the financial section – I believe it builds character), monthly Atlantic, and dozens of e-books at a point, click, click, read.
But I will keep them close. So their smell can take me back to where I was when I first read them. And with whom. And for the simple pleasure of their familiar company, quietly snuggled down together again, without questions.
At least until someone creates an app that endows my ipad with their perfect scent.
NOTE: yet another nearly synchronous blog post with two of my favorite people – read their take now or soon @ http://madamadepica.blogspot.ro and http://codruvrabie.blogspot.ro. Each week we write on a theme. Feel free to propose a topic.