Thursday, January 25, 2007

But does he fold down pages?

Richard Tull does indeed do the U.S.A.! As it were. I am now in Part Three of The Information and I am happy to report that our hero has landed in New York (yay!) where he watches Gwyn (his writer friend of whom he is totally envious) be interviewed and make a prat of himself except the interviewers don't realize it because they're ridiculous too, and it's awesome so far.

But first...oh, first first first there was a scene about 200 pages into the book, a hangover scene, two pages of pure comic cynical self-deprecating genius. That hangover scene alone justifies you reading the book, I swear. I laughed out loud multiple times. I will not let the irony go unmentioned that coincidentally, the morning after I read that particular scene I had my own world-weary head to contend with in the a.m. Funny that. You know, I went through a period of several years in which I was quite diligent about hangover avoidance. I faithfully followed my three simple rules of water, bread, and painkiller before sleep. Copious amounts of water, that's the key. If there was no bread to be had, in dire situations some crackers or potatoes or whatever handy starchy thing was lying around would do. Lately I guess I've been slacking off and I'm not sure why. I can justify skipping the food once in a while, but not drinking the water is just unacceptable.

This morning I woke up with my bottle of Dasani next to me in bed. Still completely full. It just lay there, as if it were a peacefully slumbering significant other or something. Full, neglected bottle of water. Hello? Paved with good intentions, my friends.

It took me about an hour to convince myself that yes, I was, indeed, going to get up. It was another 45 minutes or so before I did so. I would like to point out in my defense that this particular massively dehydrated and fatigued state was worsened by the fact that I missed my Long Island Rail Road train last night at the transfer point in Queens by, like, ten seconds. I saw it pulling away as I stepped out of the elevator onto the platform. The next train came ONE HOUR and THIRTEEN MINUTES later. Outside platforms, there, at Jamaica Station. Yeah, cold, drunk, 3 a.m., pitiably tired... I wanted to cry. I really did. I talked to a fellow traveler who had just missed her train to Far Rockaway. She'd approached me asking where she could buy a snack for her hour-plus wait. Fat chance, I told her, in the wee hours of the night at Jamaica. I hoped she'd want to share a cab but we were going in vastly different directions and a solo cab would be way too expensive from there.

I sometimes feel like I spend my life transferring at Jamaica, and there are all kinds of trains going in all directions, but the 2:30-3:30 a.m. hour is just not a good time. And there is nothing but NOTHING in that sketchy ol' neighborhood. I think even the pizza slice place is closed at 3 a.m. I once popped into one bar around the corner, and while I had a great time chatting with all the men, locals, among whom I was a complete and total fish out of water but a bemused one, the beers were only $1.50. That made me suspicious it's a money-laundering front or something. Dollar-fifty beers? In New York? So I don't really hang out there. Anyway, it was also closed at 3 a.m. It was just me and Martin Amis, and a few other beleaguered souls.

Wow, do I digress. Back to Richard.

"He knew American fiction, and he knew that fiction, considered in aggregate, would not lie. For him, coming to America was like dying and going to hell or heaven and finding it all as advertised. " -- page 221

I love it. Not just for its insight into the U.S. (oh, yeah!) but its subtle and only partially sarcastic comment on literature as well. Truth can be found in fiction. This is a notion I often emphasize when discussing, say, the Bible with people. Of course literature and mythology and tales we tell reveal truths, even when they are not a representation of facts and nothing but the facts.

Also of note, on that same page, Richard says "he knew, the instant he arrived on its streets, that New York was the most violent thing that men had ever done to a stretch of land..."

Last night after I had died and gone to the Long Island Rail Road, I might have agreed. But I've been thinking about this a great deal lately, about what living in New York (the state, the proxmity to the city) is doing to my love for New York (the City). For starters, I have called Long Island a pit on not a few occasions. An armpit, even. I think and dream and ponder about living in Manhattan for my next two years of Hofstra -- if not now, when?, eh -- but then I try to convince myself it makes sense to live closer to campus and just play in The City.

But I'm getting off the subject of my blog. I just -- love Manhattan. The energy when you step on the sidewalk. I never would have thought to characterize it that way, as violence done to the island. But I folded down the page, because that made sense to me, too.

I'll be sad to see this book end. Although I'm a week behind in my quest, and I so need to get crackin' on my B author. (FYI, Borges, Burroughs, and Barth appear to be the finalists.) I have folded down a lot of pages. That means I like the quotes, the things Martin Amis has said, the way he puts them. I used to have these two other voracious reader best friends in L.A. and they would chide me and my page-folding habit. I don't do it with hardcovers, only paperbacks. That somehow makes sense to me. They couldn't bring themselves to do that damage to a paperback either.

New York, New York. And oh, the things Richard does.

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