Friday, June 24, 2011

Tapped Out, Bookstore Reading Tickets, & What I'm Reading Now

I went to Barnes & Noble.  It had been a month since I'd been in a Barnes & Noble.   I needed to fill up my pannier with books.

So I went to the mall in my chic bicycling clothes.  Bicycle helmet:  check.  Bicycling gloves:  check.  Sneakers rather than bicycling shoes:  check.

You can imagine the wandering, the browsing, the dipping into various books.  I had a pleasant time drinking coffee in a comfortable chair and skimming parts of Monica Ali's Untold Story, Bella Pollen's The Summer of the Bear, Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie, William Deresewicz's A Jane Austen Education, Adrian Murdoch's The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World, Noelle Hancock's My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir, and Catherynne Valente's Palimpsest.

I decided to keep the spending in the $40 range.  Very reasonable for a shopaholic.  So I cheerfully went up to the cash register, expecting to be treated like a queen.  BUT GUESS WHAT?

I was tapped out.   

"I'll try another card." Laughing.

But I cut up my other card last winter. 

There must be another card, I thought, looking at my collection.  I expected a card to appear.  

Could I use my LIBRARY CARD?

"I wasted all that time shopping," I said.  I  abandoned my books with some amazement.

BOOKSTORE READING TICKETS. Would you pay to attend a reading?  I used to ORGANIZE readings, so I'm curious.  Some independent bookstores charge $5 or more now because audience members, instead of buying from the indies, rush home and order from Amazon.


Centuries of June by Keith Donohue.  Although I never got around to his much-praised first novel, The Stolen Child, I decided to try his new book, Centuries of June.

It's part science fiction, part literary novel.  It begins with a man on the bathroom floor, bleeding from a hole in his head.

"Falling seems to have happened in another lifetime. Even as I tumbled, stupefaction began  to gnaw at me and consume all.  In that nanosecond between the blow and timber, my mind began to hone in on the who and the why.  When the hardness struck bone, just at the base of my skull, an inch above my neck, when I began to lose balance and propel headfirst to the floor, my vision instantly sharpened as never before.  All the objects in the room lost dimension, clarified, flattened as if outlined in sharp bold black, a cartoon of space."

His dead father appears. A ghost?   And then eight furious women, who have parked their bicycles in his yard and are resting in the bedroom next door, enter the bathroom one by one and tell their stories. 

I love the first story, a Native American story set in Alaska, "The Woman Who Married a Bear."  It  very much reminds me of Louise Erdrich's fiction.  The second, "The Woman Who Swallowed a Whale," is about a shipwreck and a girl who is dressed as a boy. 

Very different, surreal, and I haven't read enough of it yet to judge, so more later.

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