I should be selling. I should be unloading guitars and flatware and old economics textbooks. I should be buying extra underwear of the brand I like, or shaving cream and vitamins and film because they’re more expensive overseas. I should be paring down my wardrobe to the few things I am willing to wear day after day, which are always comfortable, which I can sleep in and sail in and which make me more cocky than nervous when I flirt. I should be haggling with my insurance agent. I should be taking objects out of my suitcase, one by one like gumballs, as I get used to the idea of not bringing them. I should be weighing my luggage.
Instead, I am buying books. I am buying books at retail price.
What have I been doing for the last three weeks? Watching the unblinking eye, the Calypso in the living room. The sofa’s been chewing me like a soft stick of gum. Yesterday, I finally got around to getting fed up. I unplugged the TV. I picked up the book Whitney lent me: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and put off the mind-melting GRE practice tests. Incredible. In only three weeks I had managed to forget what it feels like to read a good book. I can’t put this thing down. Calvino conjures the vitality of Kipling and the analytics of Kundera. His style rushes on past the vanguard, while his themes gape over their shoulders at Borges and Paz. I haven’t felt this sense-drunk since I read The Sand Child.
Of course, this isn’t the only good book out there. There’s at least as many brilliant novels as there are excuses to put off reading them. I have too many, in fact, shelved between poetry tomes and field guides in my own basement. On the other hand, I’ve recently discovered that the quality of a reading experience, independent of the book itself, is dependant on when you read it. Right now, I need Calvino. I need more of him. So I drive to Borders. There are so many strategies and techniques for saving money in this life, why let them invade the realms of the sacrosanct? I don’t mind buying expensive books, if they’re the ones I need to read. I don’t mind shipping a ponderous package to Israel if it keeps me sane and occupied for six months. Am I being too indulgent?
By the way, huge thanks to Matt for getting me a great going-away present, The White Goddess by Robert Graves. I’m excited to read it, even though the reviews are a little harsh. As long as I maintain a healthy level of cynicism, it should make an interesting companion to the Joseph Campbell I’ve been thumbing through.