Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Smuggling, Vonnegut, and Dick

I wound up smuggling 12 years of old New Yorker magazines into my dad's basement at Thanksgiving. The plan was to throw them out now that I have them on DVD. But then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal which reminded me that DVDs won't be around forever. And then I had so much fun leafing through the copies as I packed them that I decided it would be better to keep them. My dad just had shoulder surgery so I knew he wouldn't come out to the car to help me unload when I arrived - and that meant I could sneak them into his basement without him knowing. He's been trying to clean out the basement for years but hasn't made much progress. Still, if he knew there were to be more boxes stored in the basement, it would freak him out.

I took some time over Thanksgiving to dig through boxes of books I had put into storage a long time ago. I excavated all my Kurt Vonnegut paperbacks. I've been thinking about him lately and felt like rereading some of his books. I read most of them in my early 20s and I think I have forgotten them enough to enjoy them all over. (I've also forgotton why I once liked him so much. I'm rereading God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and I'd say its enjoyable. But there's a level of goofiness in much of his work that I don't find as thrilling as I once did. Like when teenagers read and identify with The Catcher in the Rye - it seems that if you read that book as an adult, the impact isn't the same. Vonnegut may be the same way but for people in their early 20s.)

I also dug out all my Philip K. Dick novels. I spent a few years in my early 20s buying up all the copies I could find - which was kind of hard as I remember it. Most of his work was out of print then and the Dick revival had yet to start. After looking through all the old books, I remembered why I bought them but never read them - he's not a good writer. He has some great ideas. But he's not a good writer. I suppose if he had more time to work on his books, wasn't on drugs the whole time, and had publishers and editors who valued his work, then the books would have been much better. A visionary, yes. But not a fun guy to actually read.

The other books I pulled out of the crawlspace were all old Penguins that I wanted to add to my Penguin bookcase here in Washington.

I estimate I have 20-25 large boxes of books in the crawlspace. I plan to rummage through them again at xmas in search of 1980s Vintage trade paperbacks with Lorraine Louie cover art.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

2006: The Year of the Shark

I am considering a radical experiment. I plan to not buy any books in 2006. Of course, there will be a few exceptions. But, in general, with a few exceptions, I will not buy books in 2006.

I reserve the right to buy Philip Roth's new novel in the spring. And if Ian Rankin publishes a new book in 2006, I'll get it.

I am going to Ireland in January and since I will be on foreign soil, I will be allowed to buy a few books. Truthfully, the entire trip is devoted to buying books. Kennys, a famous bookstore in Galway, is closing its shop and shifting its operations to the internet. Since my dad and I have a long history with the store, we're going to see it one more time before it closes. I was there when I was ten years old but don't remember it. I discovered the store's website in the late 1990s and got books that way. My dad has been back several times without me. So, I have to buy books on this trip, my 2006 plans notwithstanding.

A private school in the Washington suburbs has a wonderful used booksale in the spring - I'll go to that.

When the Booker Prize longlist is announced in August, I think I should be able to buy a few from the list if I feel the need to.

I have enough stockpiled to last a few years. I hope to read the rest of Peter Robinson's novels. I have a bookcase entirely filled with books by George Simenon that I need to get through. Sometimes if I am sitting in front of a bookcase, I play this game where I plan which books I would read and in what order if they were the only books I could read. I might play that game for real now. Or the game where I am about to go into the FBI's witness protection program and can only take 25 of my books along with me.

We painted the apartment this weekend and I had to move hundreds and hundreds of books in order to do get to the walls. Thousands, probably. And I saw a lot of books that I had lost track of or forgotten how much I wanted to read. I think that the only way to do this is to stop buying new books.

I'm worried how this will go. I used to hear that sharks never stopped swimming because they needed water forced through them to breathe - and if they stopped moving, they would die. I think it turns out that this is only partly true. Scientists found sharks that sort of slept in currents of water and kept breathing that way. (I have this interesting looking book called The Shark Net by Robert Drewe - an Australian memoir about life in the west of the country when a killer is on the loose - or something like that. I think I'll read it next year.) (I also really want to read, but don't yet own, Charles Clover's The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat but I don't own a copy yet. I could probably get a copy in Ireland. And Neal Ascherson's The Black Sea, I can read that now, too. And Redmond O'Hanlon's last book, Trawler. I gave away my copy of that book on how cod saved/shaped/changed-whatever the world. I never finished it. I could finish that.) I fear that I am shark-like with my insatiable desire to acquire books. I should stop with this shark stuff because I have a long history of getting shark information wrong - especially when it comes to fresh water sharks.