In Which Our Heroine Feeds the Addiction

16 March 2004

The chiropractor made me feel better, and she said the magic words. She said, "You seem like the sort of person who knows when she needs an adjustment, so just call me next time your back is bothering you." Oh, glory be. Also, she's conveniently located between a nice little sandwich shop (Nokomis Cup) and one of our favorite interesting restaurants (First Course), so there are convenient places to stow people who come with me. That was an unmitigated success, I think. She was not entirely like Dr. Bill in every regard, but I don't think one can or should expect that. Happily, the sore throat is also going away. All for the best etc. etc.

I finished Miss Clare Remembers, and now I know why it was called that: because she didn't do anything else. Paula recommended it as part of my WWI reading, It's a good thing I know Paula and I like other things in common, because this book was just not good. It couldn't content itself with showing, not telling. It isn't even content to tell. It has to do both in sequence: "It was that small incident [just shown in the previous paragraph] that gave young Dolly a glimpse of her father's exultant pride, not only in his son, but in his work, and the new hope he now had of an assured future." Yes, all right; we saw that from the scene, for heaven's sake. When there were scenes at all, which mostly there weren't; we didn't get an old woman's life in snapshots, but rather in summaries. And Miss Dolly Clare never did anything wrong in her life. Never even did anything dubious. Everyone loved her, but not unseemly amounts. She was visited by tragedy twice, but who cares? And I can't even blame it on the period: this book was written in 1962, which is plenty late enough to know how to do better. Much better.

Sigh. Sorry, Paula! This is the hazard of commenting on recommended books: sometimes it really, really doesn't work out between me and the book. Like a blind date, really. And I'm not the kind of girl to say, "Oh, it's not you, it's me" when I firmly believe it's you, o book.

I also read Gail Carson Levine's The Fairy's Return, which was nice but not as good as The Fairy's Mistake. And then I read Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's The Field Guide, which I liked a lot, even though it wasn't very self-contained. That's all right, though: I have the next one in that series on hand. Which leads to the moral of the story for yesterday: I have a big, big library problem. Really. I renewed half my stack of library books before I went back to the library to return the other half, and I reserved a few books online. And I told myself I wasn't going to get very many things; no, I was just going to pick up Dogland and The Last Hot Time and one Finnish book and go to the chiropractor's. And you all know me well enough by now to know how that turned out -- I think even first-time readers know me well enough by now, which is just pathetic.

I'd like to say it's the new book section -- and that is a problem, because I came away with Ty Drago's book and a Scando-modern cookbook and a Gleick's Newton bio and a Tad Williams...with several things; let's leave it at that. And who knows when I might have the chance at them again, while they're new and hot. (Hot, yes: because the world at large and Eagan in specific is panting for The Fortress of Solitude and From a Whisper to a Scream. A elderly woman tripped me with her cane on my way out and snatched Eastern Standard Tribe from my flailing clutches, which is why I don't have it here. Yes indeed.) But it's not just the new book section, it's my entire brain, and the fact that something in my subconscious is convinced that the worst fate of all at the library is for me to forget to look for a book next time. This is why I have the library list that ate the entire Minnesota River Valley, and also why half of what I pick up on each trip to the library is not on the monster list at all.

I don't trust the library, is the thing. I love the library, but I don't trust it, because it is my experience that sometimes things just disappear from the library. Sometimes things you love are just gone, and there is nothing at all you can do about it. If they lose the Saami book I got today, it's out of print, and I will likely never have a chance to read it, or at least not when it will do me or my own books any good. If they lose their copy of The Arm of the Starfish, I don't think they'd buy another, and then I'd be bereft again until we find the boxes at Mother and Dad's.

I need to be ready, you see. The world will demand things of me. It will hand me moments when I will want to have read Emily Climbs or Aliens of Earth or Finland in the New Europe or Hapgood, when my heart will need those books to draw on. When having them will mean taking a deep breath and going on all right, and not having them will mean bewilderment and who knows what else, what poor substitutions. I need my books. And if I've gotten them once, they can only be taken so far away from me. They'll still echo through me, if I've gotten to read them. So if I spot them, trudging or dancing through the shelves -- and I've done both, quite literally, because I have decided not to wait until I am old to sing and dance for no reason where people can see me -- I can't leave them. After awhile, the trick is to get out, to not look at any more spines while I exit, so that I can't get drawn in any further.

Because I do know that there are more books to read than time to read and reread them. I do know. But it's become more than a bit compulsive, and more than a bit irrational.

And I know how devastating the wrong book can be: I read a stack of Vonnegut the week my Gran died, and it was awful, just awful. I read Vonnegut as though we're in some kind of dialog, as though he was Lazarus Long or my Uncle Rudy in some moods, where he's acting gruff but really wants to be jollied out of it. And I couldn't be that jollying girl that week, I couldn't be anybody but Girl Without Gran. I couldn't even be bothered to be someone who disliked one of the guys who lived in the same dorm and ran in the same social circles -- he came by to say he was sorry, and I was glad, and I couldn't be bothered to be the girl who didn't like him. But I also couldn't be bothered to mentally jolly Vonnegut, and he just knocked me flat with his way of hanging onto cynicism with his fingernails, and I just sat there in my chair there in the dorm, shaking my head no, no. But I kept reading it, because that's what I had to read then. I couldn't be Girl Going To Library. There was no one else to be. Gradually I started being more than Girl Without Gran again and got better books to read at that time. But it took me longer because I had the wrong books. It's bad to have the wrong books.

I read a Scientific American article last night -- oh yes, I read SA, too, and I also got good work done on my own book, because I am a productivity machine and also because no one here was particularly chatty after dinner. Anyway, yes. Article. It was talking about people who are focused on getting the best of what's available vs. people who are focused on getting a good version of what's available. (I must confess that my brain produced the line, "We only have one rabbi, and he only has one son. Why shouldn't I want the best?" with no prompting from me.) It seems like a useful categorization, though like all categorizations of people, limited. And I'm not a maximizer; I don't have to have the best book in the library. I don't believe that there was one. I don't believe in one best. Sometimes there's one best thing for me -- the black dress I bought last week was the single best garment for me at Southdale -- but after I've chosen it, I'm able to settle in, mentally. I don't second-guess very much in that way. So I don't worry about what I didn't get at the library once I've left. It's while I'm there that it's a problem.

I also started reading Matthew Stover's Blade of Tyshalle but didn't get very far before I had to go to sleep. So, more of that today. Although it is in a large trade paper edition and thus will not go to the grocery store with me, so I'll have to stick something else in my purse. (I no longer go grocery shopping without a book. The checkout lanes are too variable.) Maybe the next book in the Spiderwick Chronicles would fit just right. Maybe.

In other news, it is a very bad idea for me to write a middle grades chapter book just for this contest, which ends on April 15, and I'm not going to do it. Actually I mean it this time: I have only a very small and easily squashable urge to write for this thing. So back to the Not The Moose Book with me! No more one-month-novel style digressions! It was fun, but the Not The Moose is more fun. What a genuine grown-up I am.

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