There are more books that I want to read than I can stand to think about. A mass graveyard of books waiting for me to resurrect them. I am so over whelmed by the amount of books that I want and need to read-that I have difficulty reading through one book from cover to cover. Half way through a book, I suffer such anticipatory anxiety by the thought of what book I will read next- that I loose interest in the book I am reading. Occasionally a work of fiction (which is all I read) will take a hold of me and I will complete the book (below I will cite the twenty books that have done this to me). In these rare and holly circumstances the book becomes an altar, a ritual and a prayer that I carry with me through out the day. I take the book with me wherever I go, like a doctor carrying his medicine bag. When I am finished reading the book a sadness comes over me because I know have to leave a part of me behind. There is a small death, a short grieving process and then like a true Booky I set off to the bookstore in search of another book.
I resent work because it keeps me away from my true work- which is reading. I have always said that the worst job to have in a capitalist society is that of a reader (this is why some of the most unhappy people are those who think that their happiness depends upon time that they get to spend reading). You spend a lot of time working/reading but are not payed for the work you do (this is why most Bookies are well educated and poor). And make no mistake, reading good literature is work- it requires complete attention, dedication and time.
As a Booky I also resent anything that resembles responsibility because it swallows up time that could be spent between the pages of a book (this is why a lot of Bookies avoid having children and friends). A true Booky shares an apartment, where the rent is to high (I say apartment because a true bookie could not afford a house), filled with half read and unread books and a stack of books by a reading chair that they are currently attempting to read (but will most likely never finish). As a Booky I spend a lot of time wishing that checks made out to me, would just show up in my mailbox. This way I could avoid the dreaded thing often referred to as “the job.” I also spend a good amount of time in bookstores but I do not always walk out with a book in hand. The book that I buy must be thought about, contemplated- because it has to be intriguing enough to take me away from the book that I am currently reading. Being a Booky is not without its downsides, life is hard for a Booky- but a true Booky spends the majority of their time lost within the pages of a book so that they do not have to think about the downsides.
I am fortunate to live in the San Fransisco Bay Area because there are a plethora of independent bookstores that I can meander around in. For me, the act of entering a bookstore is what I imagine entering a Church or a Mosque would be like for some. It is like entering a realm of endless possibilities. What I may stumble upon could forever change my perception of life- and this possibility is the high that keeps me in a kind of dedicated, hyper aroused pursuit.
My two favorite bookstores- City Lights in San Fransisco (stomping ground of Beat Writers and Poets which is owned by Lawrence Ferlinghetti) and Moe’s in Berkeley are universes unto themselves (that have swallowed the large majority of my income). Every time I enter these bookstores I am carried away into a different time and space. I am possessed by a holly ghost. My worries and fears leave me. The burdens of my life let me go. I am at one with myself and as excited to find a new book as a beggar is to find God. I sometimes catch myself drooling over my chin as I search the isles of books looking for a title that will change my life. I spend hours in the endless, solitary investigations (this is why no one who knows me will go into a bookstore with me) until my back and neck hurts and it is time to go home.
Most often I walk out of the bookstore empty handed, dismayed by my inability to find a book worth reading. In these situations a small depression comes over me and I usually end up drinking too much booze to wash away the despair. But every once in a small while I will find the book. On these rare life affirming occasions it is a customary ritual for me to leave the bookstore with a new book in hand and go to the nearest liquor store where I purchase a cigar. I then find a comfortable lit spot to sit someplace along the street and smoke my cigar like a man who just been given second shot at life.
Twenty Books That Have Taken Hold Of Me From Cover To Cover (in no special order):
1- The Trial/Franz Kafka
2- The Looser/Thomas Bernhard
3- Ulysses/James Joyce
4- Women/Charles Burkowski
5- The Stranger/ Albert Camus
6- The Dharma Bums/Jack Kerouac
7- The Noodle Maker/ Ma Jian
8- Hard Boiled Wonder Land And The End Of The World/ Haruki Murakami
9- Crime And Punishment/Brothers Karamazov/ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
1o- To The Light House/ Virginia Wolf
11- The Key/ Junichiro Tanizaki
12- The Satanic Versus/ Salman Rushdie
13- The Diving Bell And The Butterfly/ Jean- Dominique Bauby
14- Dance, Dance, Dance/ Haruki Murakami
15- Siddhartha/ Herman Hesse
16- Too Loud A Solitude/ Bohumil Hrabal
17- Journey To The End Of Night/ Louis-Ferdinand Celine
18- The Death Of Ivan Illiych/ Leo Tolstoy
19- The New York Trilogy/ Paul Auster
20- The Woodcutters/ Thomas Bernhard
21) Three Novels- Malloy/ Malone Dies/ The Unnamable/ Samuel Beckett