book hauls, book dealers, and my search for patience

I met with a book dealer, a new one, a few hours ago for transaction. Well, they’re actually just strangers who sell their old books or give them away for free because who knows why, but I call them book dealers because it sounds cooler. My default book dealer, who I will refer to as G, is a tall, lithe, birdlike man with a scruffy beard. He teaches yoga and is, perhaps, one of the most interesting people out there. And I don’t even know him as much as I want, but I can tell he’s a very profound guy. A couple of my favorite books came from his own collection that he was downsizing, actually, so I know he has good taste in literature. My other book dealer, the one I met earlier, is K. She is a pregnant woman who wears all black. She’s actually a vegan and is a practitioner of zero waste living, so she’s been getting rid of a lot of her stuff to minimize her waste, and also to make way and give space for her baby. One of the things she was getting rid of were her books so she gave them away for free. My heart hurt a bit; I’m a vegan and want to get into zero waste (failed attempts so far, but who’s counting?!) but I cant get into the whole minimalism thing when it comes to books. I can give away anything, but books I really can’t. I know I should get rid of my clothes and shoes. I have way too many, and far too few that I actually put to use. I’m thinking of giving them all away and just buying/thrifting same sets of everything: dark jeans and trousers, white button ups, black shirts and turtlenecks. Never been a fan of fashion to be honest, and I have way too many clothes picking up dust in my closet. Perhaps after my graduation this October!

Anyway, I felt guilty of taking advantage of my book dealer’s kindness (she had a couple of books up for the taking, but I unabashedly and selfishly took four when I know I should’ve just stuck to one or two, because for sure other people want these books as well, but well, the idea of free books was just too tempting, sorry!!!) But yeah, I felt guilty so in exchange for the books that I asked for, I gave her a bunch of oranges in return, which didn’t really cost a lot. I got the following from K:

New copies of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

I was never brought up on the classics and reading for me has been a solitary thing ever since, so the things I read from my childhood were all from my own discovery, which means I read a lot of contemporaries. I’m acquainting myself with the classics bit by bit, and I’ve heard Twain’s writing is way ahead of his time, so my fear of being alienated from his language is kept at bay. The books were still sealed with plastic and have never been read, and I thought K was crazy for giving them away, so I snatched them up and told her I’d take them. They are in perfect condition!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki  Murakami.

I am on the fence with Murakami. I enjoyed South of the Border, West of the Sun very much, as well as his short stories, but I couldn’t get into After Dark even after I finished it. I tried Kafka on the Shore and Hardboiled Wonderland and gave up on them as well. I don’t exactly know what’s wrong; perhaps my eyes and judgments are clouded, but I tried so hard to get into the last three books to no avail. So here’s hoping I like Norwegian Wood! Anyway, I got it for free and it’s still in very good condition, so I’m definitely not complaining!

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

It’s a battered copy and has definitely seen better days. The cover is completely ripped apart, it’s totally gone, and the book itself is split in half, unhinged from its spine. But hey, free is free and it’s what’s inside that matters, plus I already fixed it with masking tape! I love it either way. I can tell this is a well loved book. I’ve had numerous paperbacks give up on me for being abused and read so many times, so this Anansi book isn’t really surprising to me. It would’ve ended up the same way, would be the imago of the book should I get it brand new. I never liked mint condition books anyway. Those are sad books because you know they’ve never been read, and books are lonely when you don’t spread their pages apart to reveal their secrets. A battered book is a happy book!

Also, I just find it so funny because buying another Gaiman reminded me of this encounter I had with my staff writer weeks ago. She asked me why I’ve never read Sylvia Plath and she was shocked that I’ve never read The Bell Jar in my teens. She said, and I quote, “Whaaat? You’ve never read The Bell Jar?! But it’s every sad teenage girl’s story…”

To be true, I was a sad, prepubescent girl, okay, I had my emo phase, but let’s not get into that… BUT I was more of a Gaiman-Tolkien-King girl during those times. High fantasy, urban fantasy, and horror were my shit. My reading tastes back then weren’t sad at all, even though I was terribly sad and alone in real life. Perhaps I channeled my energies to the weird and the angry, the macabre and the violent, the angsty and the Other instead of wallowing in sadness even more. I got those from Gaiman and King. Coraline, The Sandman, Fragile Things, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Duma Key, It, Carrie, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, these were my teenage companions! I was a sad prepubescent girl, but my literature was never sad. I guess I didn’t want to wallow in my sadness so I didn’t search for it in the books I read, which is great and all because I think if I read Plath during those dark hours, I would’ve gotten it all wrong. I would’ve romanticized suicide and thought it was all cool to be depressed and to be cutting myself. Maybe at that precarious prepubescent mind I would’ve been driven to do something unthinkable, like stick my head in a gas oven or something, and think it’s cool. Knowing my idiotic self back then, I would’ve done just that and thought it was cool, so I’m totally not complaining about growing up on Gaiman and King and Tolkien instead of Plath. If I were to read Plath, I’d like to do it now since I’m older, more mature, grounded, and have a stronger sense of self. But right, I’ve never had that sad teenage Bell Jar girl phase… that would’ve been interesting to see… I did have a Carrie stage though!!! I believed I was Carrie and could control people with telekinesis and read and communicate with other minds with my telepathy snort snort but let’s not get into that I am cringing so hard (tho to be fair, Carrie will always occupy a special space in my heart!)

Anyway, after meeting with my book dealer, of course I just had to indulge myself even more and head next  to the book thrift store to get two more books! The good books were stacked at the very top of the shelf, as if the people in the book thrift store didn’t want them to be bought off, but thanks to my 5’9 height I was able to pry them off from the top shelf by standing on tiptoe. I bought The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie and New Selected Poems by Seamus Heaney! They’re still in good condition, though they’ve totally been read through. Still, they are holding shape and, like what I said, I hate cookie cutter perfect books since those aren’t well loved books.

The Heaney poetry collection’s got scribbles on every page and I am swooning. I love it when past owners do this!!! Someone left their bookmark in the Rushdie book though, probably its last owner? The book has an address from India. The bookmark says INCY BELLA THE BOOK SHOP and it’s in Jew Town, Synagogue Lane, Cochin in Kerala, India. Wow… this book’s traveled to so many places. I hope I can visit that Indian book shop one day! I’m imagining that the bookshop is a small, independent bookshop, thriving and transcending against all the big business and corporations. It’s probably a little two-story brick house with the ground floor converted into a bookshop, in the middle of a bustling street… Ahhh that would be so cool. I wish I owned my own independent book shop.

The Moors Last Sigh is something I’m looking forward to read. Every time I read Salman Rushdie, it is always during a hectic time at school; it’s a bad idea because his books are these huge, thick monsters and the deadlines always catch up to me and I don’t get to finish them even if I want to. But now I wont have the library’s due dates and my academic deadlines looming over me so I can read Rushdie in peace, finally! (Past failed attempts: The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children).

On another note that is just as important than my book haul, I regret to admit that I had plonked Sontag and Soseki down… I hate myself, but this is how I read, haphazard, full of impulse and pigheadedness. I read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel in one sitting the other day—something I didn’t plan at all—which frustrated me because I told myself I wasn’t done with my other books. Welp, my reading has never been linear so I don’t understand why I even bothered to follow a reading list strictly when it’s bound to fail. I told myself I wouldn’t read anything else until I’m done with Sontag and Soseki, but my arbitrary reading nature comes out. Of course I am not ruling them out! Sontag’s book is a collection of essays so I can read one anytime, but I cant read all of them in one sitting, and I don’t think I want to. Soseki on the other hand, well I feel bad for not finishing Sanshiro. I don’t hate it at all, it’s just that I need palate cleansers every now and then. He’s not boring, it’s just my reading nature, I guess, to read everything at once, at the same time; the experience is better for me. So that’s a failed attempt at focusing on books linearly sigh sigh. I always complain about the disarray that is my life, but I cannot even sort out my own reading list! Should I even bother or just let nature’s patterns take their course? Sigh sigh

Right now I am also lingering on the first pages of Jung’s Man and His Symbols, but at the same time, I want to focus on Norwegian Wood, The Moor’s Last Sigh and start on a few poems by Heaney. If push comes to shove (gosh, who even stresses about their book list like this?!) I’d probably put Norwegian Wood and Man and His Symbols first, then Heaney’s poems a close second. I think Rushdie can wait for me; he’s always been, and I don’t want to be disrespectful here, but Rushdie can wait a little bit more, I think! We’ll see! I also read over the weekend some short stories by Guy Maupassant and Isaac Asimov, and a book of haikus; this was during the time the power went out due to the relentless rain. It was so hot and I was sticky with sweat so I read in the candlelight, naked. There was nothing else to do. My eyes hurt from the low light, but I didn’t mind because I love Maupassant; his tales of terror fit perfectly in that rainy, candlelit Saturday night! Asimov, well, he’s regarded as one of the best, if not the best scifi writer of all time, but there’s something about him…. I guess it’s my fault. I am always searching for Bradbury’s poetry in scifi and I know people will argue that Ray Bradbury isn’t even science fiction, but well, I also beg to differ! Ray Bradbury can hold his own in scifi! He made everything in the quotidian so sublime! Form and content are both important of course, but personally, I find Asimov lacking in the form department, of course this is my opinion, you can challenge me if you disagree. Maybe because I compare him to Bradbury? Which isn’t fair, but Asimov is just dry week-old bread compared to Bradbury. I just…if Asimov’s scifi then Bradbury’s magic.  but Bradbury wasn’t afraid to be ascientific, if not ascientific. But whatever. It’s what makes you feel in the end anyway, and Bradbury’s made me cry so many times and feel so many heavy things in his shortest of stories, and Asimov, well, I don’t feel anything when I read him. The Last Question was supposedly brilliant, but when I read it, I just didn’t feel anything. Am I not scientific enough? Are my eyes clouded? Am I reading him wrong? Perhaps I need to be more patient with Asimov. I am the same with Kerouac and Murakami. Kerouac, I had to read On the Road TWICE just to appreciate where he was coming from, and now I love Kerouac. So I think I need to be more patient with Asimov and Murakami. Patience, patience, patience.

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