Monday, April 5, 2010

Sucked into the Vortex

Day 55 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project.

Several of us were traveling over the weekend, and Bob reports that he was sucked into the vortex of a used bookstore:

"The weather in Washington was beautiful on Thursday, so I went for a walk at lunchtime--and was sucked into the vortex of a used book store. My eye was caught by a two-volume biography of Lytton Strachey by Michael Holroyd. Having always been interested in Strachey as a critical writer, and having been intrigued by Emma Thompson's portrayal of Dora Carrington, I picked it up. And, when I saw Gielgud: A Theatrical Life right next to it, I couldn't resist that either. Then, I saw Jack Germond's and Jules Witcover's Blue Smoke & Mirrors--their account of the 1980 presidential campaign, and had to pick it up. (I've long been a fan of both of them, since Jules Witcover's 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy, and since the first column I read by Jack Germond back in the Washington Star), Seymour Hersch's Dark Side of Camelot and lastly Don DeLillo's Falling Man. I only stopped at six volumes because of how far I had to walk back to the office."

Because I work in one, I am very familiar with the hazards of being sucked into the vortex of used books, and I wish Bob well with his heavy lifting as well as his heavy reading. I am hoping he reports here again when he has time, as his comments are always enlightening. Anna was reading Falling Man earlier in this blog, and I think my dad would like the Gielgud book, as he was reading one Alec Guinness's memoirs, Blessings in Disguise, this summer, so I borrowed and read it, too. Ah, in fact we traded memoirs, as I recall, so, as I had wished recently, he has already read The Tender Bar! And, yes, my mother had found the Guinness book in the vortex of Babbitt's Books.

I will rummage in the vortex to see if we have My Name Escapes Me, another Guinness memoir, built from diary entries, just because I love the title! This seems like one I could dip into on breaks and leave in the store for someone else, which I should, of course, do more often!

Ah! And all this reminds me that I will indeed get to pack books for a week-long vacation in Michigan in July. There is no Internet access in the house but there is in a little cafe down the street, so if my son allows it, I will borrow his laptop to keep up with this blog. If not, I will again hand write the entries and post them later, as I did with this little Easter weekend trip.

And I loved Susan's comment about asking perfect strangers what they are reading, which I do regularly in the vortex of the bookstore, or sometimes when I follow people outside and talk to them on the sidewalk. (Julie, I am not a stalker.) I promise I will ask perfect strangers on the beach this summer what they are reading, especially if they have actual sandy books visible on the towel or sticking up out of the swim bag. And in the Internet cafe. If I am not too shy.

And it's possible that we will get to Virginia sometime this summer, too, Bob! I have an aunt there fixing up a house in Charlottesville, and a handyman artist husband with a volleyball pal in Northern Virginia (a separate country, as I now understand it, the rest of Virginia being a part of The South, which was brought home to me when I handled a Richmond, VA newspaper from the Civil War period listing Jefferson Davis as The President of the United States), and another aunt in Alexandria. If events collide, we might wander the vortex together!

11 comments:

mike said...

Great posting! I'm always asking colleagues what they are reading, even before I ask them how they are! I figure at least when they tell me what they're reading, I'll learn something about them! They know better than to return the question, perhaps because they find mine so rude, or perhaps because they don't live for books and will feel inadequate next to my answer which these days is: a biography of Francis Galton and Look me in the eye by John Elder Robison and The letters of Van Gogh. All humans should read the last-mentioned book. It is glorious!
Mike Peterson

Kathleen said...

Ah, I love Van Gogh. And Mr. Potato Head! And now you know how "low culture" I am, although I would say that "Modern Family" is comic genius on tv!

Julie Kistler said...

Kathleen, I would never think you were a stalker! Well, not unless you went around wearing black all the time, moping about how you felt the world more strongly than anybody else, and developing a huge crush on a shallow, hot guy who didn't return it, so you followed him around and threw yourself at him, not letting go until he gave in and decided he loved you back. And THAT is the plot of "Passion" and where my stalker comment came from. When I saw "Passion" the first time, I left the theater thinking Stephen Sondheim must have a very low opinion of his own attractiveness or worth as a romantic partner to have concocted that idea. Now I think that's probably reading too much into it. But I do wonder (from comments people have made after reading my books) how much all of us assume that what we read in fiction is real for the author and not fiction at all. Then, of course, the next question becomes whether we are correct at all in making that sort of assumption about fiction writers. Do they inevitably put their real lives into their fiction? I don't think I do, but I suppose at some level, my books -- even fizzy little romantic comedies -- are based on issues that are important to me, or I wouldn't have written the books.

Kathleen said...

Well, remind me not to stalk Sondheim, especially since he's dead!

Oh, wait, excellent novel idea! Side by Side by Zombie!

About the fiction vs. thinly-disguised autobiography thing. I guess I go through periods of disappointment whenever I learn that a novel I thought was a particularly wonderful bit of imagination combined with close observation of human behavior...turns out to be thinly-disguised autobiography. I think it is one of the reasons I have not written a novel. I don't want to thinly disguise my life, nor to reveal it, except where it is revealed, quite openly, in poems...except that I feel free to lie in poems, and mix in the imagination and various facts (historical, scientific, etc.) so, ultimately, who would really know anything about me...except everything, in its ineffable essence.

And that is why no one stalks me.

Julie Kistler said...

I hope Sondheim isn't dead. Did I miss something in the past few days? (Scurries off to check on health of Sondheim.)

Kathleen said...

So you're saying he's not dead, he's just 80?

Kathleen said...

I'm still not going to stalk him.

Kathleen said...

And THAT is being sucked into the vortex!

mike said...

Kathleen: you're shallow? Since when? I've read your poetry! Julie Kistler: interesting what you say about fiction. I've wondered the same thing about some fiction I've read. It seems to me that Styron does the best job of getting into the skin of his characters, but even he had Stingo be a writer starting his career as a reader at a major New York publishing house. Other fiction- the best moments of "Sophie's Choice," or "Moby Dick" or "Don Quixote"- verge on the fantastical and the author disappears completely.
Mike Peterson

Kathleen said...

Who said I was shallow? Are you stalking me?

Oh. Because I like "Modern Family"? And "Glee"? Because I watch tv? (Mostly I watch it on hulu, so aliens have sucked out my brains.)

Julie, your book Cut to the Chase turned up today! So I have it. Is it the one with the bubble gum machine in it?!

Julie Kistler said...

I'm afraid that Cut to the Chase does not have the gumball machine. It does have U of I, Chunky Monkey and a Martha Stewart sort of person who is younger, nicer and screwier than the real one.

I prefer the gumball one myself. (Its name is Packing Heat, because I truly had no shame when it came to that trilogy. The order is Hot Prospect/Cut to the Chase/Packing Heat and they work together as a unit or separately. They involve brothers who are cops. Hence the Packing Heat thing. Packing Heat solves the mystery posed in all three.)

I think I can honestly say that there is not even one bit of me in any of the three. Well, I can read tarot cards like the heroine of the first one. But I wouldn't take a card that seriously, I don't think. I will try to drop books 1 and 3 off at Babbitt's so you can read them in order if you want to. Or just read the gumball one.

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