Day 340 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and John is reading a new stack of, say, 10 or 12 fabulous books that caught his eye at Babbitt's. John is a regular who appears every few months for another fine stack and says his house is full of books, maybe as many as the bookstore, so now I am worried for his wife, who, I'm sure, is hoping he will consider a Kindle. (He won't.)
John first appeared at the window, peering at a copy of To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. He came in, picked it up, looked closely at it, saying, "My wife loves lighthouses."
Here's when my personal responsibility red alert button went off, flashing little pulses through my brain. "I read that book and can't even remember the lighthouse." May the literature gods smite me, I can't remember the lighthouse, except the one on the cover of the paperback edition I read in the green room while singing in the chorus of Camelot. Not a good place to read Virginia Woolf. Nor a good time, age 17, immersed in musical comedy. Wikipedia reminds me that a visit to the lighthouse is central to the "plot" and I did remember that much, but I can't remember said "plot."
Red light still flashing, save the wife, save the wife! "Isn't that the one where the wife dies in parentheses?" I ask, innocently. "And I don't think that's giving anything away," I continue, impishly.
(I think I saved the wife.)
Anyway, in John's fabulous stack was a book from the floor that I had been lusting after as I passed it day after day, The Book of Love, an anthology edited by Diane Ackerman and Jeanne Mackin.
"I'm a hopeless romantic," said John.
Further evidence: the stack included Don Quixote, our favorite fighter of windmills, by Cervantes, which, by random coincidence, a young man had bought in paperback earlier in the day! And Lincoln and the Court, by Brian McGinty, an account of Abraham Lincoln and the Supreme Court and their constitutional and legal "battles" during the Civil War. We also looked for and found a hardcover Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. More about that, perhaps, tomorrow.
But now I will tell about what I love to do, respond to a snippet of conversation by turning and grabbing from the shelf behind me (the shelf of books I am about to list in our database) the perfect book for the person in front of me. "Oh, you'll want this!" is the refrain.
John had just asked, "Do you have True Grit?" as he had just seen the movie.
"We used to have one in the window [full circle return to image of John in the window!!]. Sorry, it sold right away," I said, turning to the shelf behind me. "But you'll want this!"
The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis! First edition, hardcover with dustjacket. John, if not his wife, is going to be glad he has that one!
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director in Chicago, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited two poetry journals, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and was an assistant professor of English. Now I serve as Poetry Editor and Editor at Large for Escape Into Life, an online arts magazine, write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.