Saturday, March 31, 2007

This fate has been brought to you by the letter E

OK, here's how it happened. After my glorious journey through Philip K. Dick's dystopic Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, it was time to select an 'E' author, and the finalists were Louise Erdrich, George Eliot, and Umberto Eco. Only George Eliot was probably never really more than a courtesy finalist. I mean, I may have even picked up Silas Marner once before in my little lifetime, or was it Middlemarch? At any rate, didn't get past a page or two. But as much as I've meant to read her, this little A to Z quest of mine has turned out to be not so much about "classics" and more about twentieth century modernish literary men.

Notice, men. That was one of my main thoughts going into letter E. It was about damn time I had a woman author. At the same time I didn't want to let that stop me from reading something I otherwise intently wanted to read. For example, a book by Umberto Eco. Namely, Foucault's Pendulum, or, even more highly anticipated for even longer, The Name of the Rose.

Well, but then Louise Erdrich, heard so much about her, too. So perhaps it was time for fate to settle this once again, fate having worked out so well with the way it stepped in and chose a Philip K. Dick novel for us.

This time around, I asked fate what to do by going to the Hofstra undergraduate library. After spending enough time in front of the George Eliot shelves to confirm I wasn't really in the mood for her, I moved on to Louise Erdrich, where I was happy to find The Painted Drum, the one of hers by which I was most intrigued. I flipped through some of her others and then decided to stick with that one. All right, then, on to Umberto Eco...and if The Name of the Rose wasn't there, fate would be telling me to read Louise Erdrich.

First I had to remember that what with Umberto being Italian and all, he was on the next floor down (argh, I still say, to Library of Congress call numbers), and then when I finally got there, there was in fact no Rose. That was kind of a "Pam Bachrach moment." Pam was a woman I worked with in L.A., when I spent most of my time in the throes of indecision about what to do next with my life. We'd sit chain smoking on the balcony and she'd give me lots of good advice, most of which I'd ignore. Well, one day as I agonized between two choices she said, "Flip a coin. You'll know while it's in the air how you want it to land."

Ahhh, truer words were never spoken. I've often used this piece of advice since. And while I didn't flip for Louise and Umberto, I realized after fate told me which one to read that I already knew which one I wanted to read, and fate and I didn't agree. (As for me not being on the same page as fate, see also e.g. this year's NCAA tournament.)

Later that night after I finished my law schooly things I was heading back across campus when I recalled that a friend who lives in my building is a fan of The Name of the Rose, so I texted her asking if she owns it and can I borrow it. She responded that she would look right away but wasn't sure if her copy was here on Long Island with her. Perhaps all was not lost. When I got to the parking lot of the building, there she was searching her car, but to no avail.

Well, that was two strikes. But by this point, I had talked to my partner in reading project crime, and it turned out that when I'd pitched The Name of the Rose to him a couple days before I'd been more convincing than I'd realized, and he actually was sufficiently intrigued to read it. Well, then, I couldn't go ahead with Louise, now could I, if I'd sold someone ELSE on Umberto as well?

So, yeah, that's how it happened. Erdrich's The Painted Drum is lying on my floor, ignored, and Eco's The Name of the Rose, procured at Borders, is in my bag, all 500+ pages of it. Hey, it's spring break. I'm more justified than ever in reading a nice luxuriously long non-law book!

"Now, some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate
And for them I would not disagree
But I never learned nothing by playing it safe
I say fate should not tempt me..."

--mary-chapin carpenter, 'i take my chances'

No comments: