Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reading Rainbow.

I like to buy things. In fact, I like to buy many things. I go through periods where I'll stockpile anything from CDs to stationery to vintage rock t-shirts. These are subject to change according to mood and stage in life, of course, but the one thing that remains constant is books. I love used book stores: Green Apple, City Lights, Pegasus, Black Oak. Pages lovingly worn and vintage hardcover editions for a fraction of the price. I can never say no to a book, and I spend a ridiculous amount of money on literature because after all, how can you put a price on knowledge and culture?

From my stint as an English major to my overflowing bookshelf, everything about me suggests that I voraciously read. Having run out of room on my [strictly decorational] fireplace mantel, I have resorted to amassing piles by my CD collection and even more piles under my bed. That's not to say that I actually ever get around to reading, however. What I've realized is this: I buy books primarily to place impressively and ever-so-thoughtfully upon my mantel. And when I'm feeling especially artistic, I'll rotate the featured display, as if visually merchandising a boutique window. Books strategically purchased for what they represent, from the aesthetics (who doesn't judge a book by its cover?) to the eclectic genres, creating a telling persona without me having to even open my mouth.

Case in point: I walked into Barnes & Noble one day and stumbled upon newly designed pocket editions of Francis Bacon's On Empire and Plato's The Symposium - essentials for any self-respecting intellectual. Inspired and on a self-betterment campaign, I took the two books straight to the counter and promptly whipped out my credit card. Once the transaction was completed, I felt instantly smarter. Visions of grandeur and culture, of being engaged in philosophic discussions about shadows against a cave wall and what they represent.. all spurred by a lovely handpressed fleur-de-lys motif adorning a book cover. Will I ever study said manuals? Who knows? But should I ever have the desire, I have the option to.

Maybe it was my upbringing. While riddled to guilt at even the suggestion of shopping anywhere other than TJ Maxx, my parents would shell out the big bucks for anything with a binding. It was an educational investment, they said.

And so I continue to buy. Just this weekend, I bought seven*.

I don't know when the last time I actually read was. I simply don't have the time. My productivity ratio for the past month breaks down as follows: 10 books purchased to 1 fashion magazine perused. I recently ordered subscriptions to the New Yorker and the Economist as an alternative, but I wonder if I'll even get around to thumbing through those. If I were more practical, I suppose I would finish what I owned before carting home another dozen. But I'm not, so I can't, then I won't but.. continue to be anything other than idiosyncratic me.


* Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff, Mountain Man Dance Moves (McSweeney's book of lists), and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in case you were wondering (but most likely weren't).


Anonymous said...

this post proves.... you are me. or i am you. something of that sort.

i've bought no less than 10 books in the past month, of which around 8 are probably going to be bookshelf dressing.

i bought "london is the best city in america" simply b/c i liked the title... hoping it cracks up to be the intelligent chicklit it's billed as...

miss you! -eunice

Passionate Eater said...

If you want to read the books, put them in the bathroom--one at time, on a rotating, monthly basis.

I know, it sounds like a terrible and completely grotesque suggestion, but it seriously works!

Illuminatus said... so... tempting...