Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sadness and jest

NOW FINISHED: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
NOW READING: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

At some point, there in the haze of it all, I finished this semester's finals. Once I no longer had any law-text-casebook-exam studying-law-law-law-law reading left, I picked up a novel. It was almost frenzied how I went about picking it up. And it was amazing how good it felt to plunge into it. I felt like I was escaping from a day of stress and collapsing back into the most luxurious, soft, silky, five-million-thread-count sheets bed, enveloped in relaxation.

But while buying it I felt law school stress-like fettered, desperate, where-is-it, needy desire to get my hands on it. The allegedly available copy at the Hofstra undergraduate library was missing; two librarians, an assistant, and I searched to no avail. I wandered over to the bookstore not really wanting to pay full price for a book, but really wanting to start reading it on the Long Island Rail Road on my way home from school. I had resigned myself to not being able this semester to getting around to reading any of the books before this year's crop of films (Charlie Wilson's War, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men, etc.) (I've already long since read Beowulf and Into the Wild.) But then I just thought, well, maybe I have time to get through The Kite Runner...I really wanted to read that one before seeing the film...

Behold, in the university bookstore, it was buried in an under table stack but it was 30% off! I felt I had uncovered a treasure. I started reading it on my train ride home and read 100 pages that day. It goes pretty quickly; if you, like me, are imaging it as a very literary piece with difficult language and comlex sentences that move slowly, think again. It's more Hornby-paced than Roth-paced. Kind of like a male version of Elizabeth Berg, gone global. With Judy Blume's teenage precocious hidden wisdom and Maeve Binchy's melancholy accompanying him on the world tour.

OK, so I am not describing the tone that well. But I did enjoy the book, finishing it on the plane to Arizona for Christmas. However, in addition to finishing it on the plane, I also had to actually stop reading and take a breather on the plane, somewhere in the 200 pages, after one of the most good-yet-awful stop-you-in-your-tracks scenes in literature I've read in quite some time. If you've read the book, you will undoubtedly remember. You know, when he goes to the stadium, to make an appointment with the man in the sunglasses. If you haven't read it, I will never spoil it here. The book is good if not great, the writing is occasionally quite touching and occasionally so-so, but the last third is worth reading, and that scene alone should - must - be read by all thinking, feeling people. And perhaps by all unthinking, unfeeling people, that they might reconsider.

Now, I have moved on to my winter "big book," which Brian is also starting now: Infinite Jest. I remember when this came out. I was in L.A. What was that awesome bookstore in Los Feliz...small and independent...I remember they were all hopped up about it. So was one of the women for whom I house-sat. It was totally on my radar as one of those books philosophical, coffee-drinking, hipster-aspiring, college students and twentysomethings who still live like college students should know and love. Therefore it went on my mental to-read list, where it has stayed. To be retrieved now thanks to Brian's getting hopped up about it, and that thanks to Alex. (This paragraph reminds us that Borders is good for some things.)

So far, so good. But I'm thirty pages in out of how many hundreds? I'm not even worthy to comment on it yet.


Kim Diaz said...

Skylight Books on Vermont, I believe.

linda said...

YES! Is it still there?? Hurrah for independent bookstores.

Kim Diaz said...

Still there, yes. By the way - there is a recently-opened one dollar bookstore in Burbank, appropriately named "One Dollar Bookstore" - everything and anything - indiscriminately - $1.
I got Empire Falls there for $ well as some Anne Lamott, Linda Ellerbee, Thomas Moore, Kathleen Norris....the addict is very afraid.....