shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


siesta with book

Vanessa Hartmann writes in the NYT about her family's travels with books. As someone who always brings along either too many or not enough, I can relate*:

The first page is like a sigh of relief, the typeset a familiar face in a country of steamy jungle scenery and relentlessly picturesque beaches. While alcoholics hide behind their bottles, my family retreats behind well-glued bindings and Times New Roman fonts when we can't take in any more of the view. I tear through the Alvarez greedily all evening, straining my eyes in the dull yellow light of the generator-fed lamp only to realize at the end, having already finished the two other books, that there is nothing left to read.

We return to San José for a day before going to the cloud forests of Monteverde. As we walk around the discount shopping district, we look for a bookstore between shoes and fake leather purses. My mother is walking while consulting the travel guide, trying to find the address of the one English bookstore that's mentioned, but neither the buildings nor the blocks are numbered in San José, and the streets are rarely named. My brother is angry because we aren't walking fast enough. My father is annoyed that we aren't asking anyone where it is, and my mother desperately needs an interesting book. I am jonesing for print, preferably fine and tightly spaced. I need a classic, something epic, something Russian.

I spent most of my childhood "missing it," whatever it happened to be outside the window -- we were always in cars, on vacation or on the way to school or on the way to a doctor or to shop, the closest of these things being an hour and a half away. Also, I was in danger of going blind. (Because reading in cars makes you go blind, you know.)

Later, I'd grow up and wonder what the odds were I'd really be arrested for not declaring properly on the duty form -- would they confiscate my books, champagne and single malt whiskey? These three being the holy triumvirate of Things Worth Bringing Back. (I'd discarded SHOES to make room, which is no small thing.) Has it ever crossed my mind to travel somewhere just to buy books that you couldn't (then) find in America? Yes, and now I miss the making of a list--these are the books I will find while I'm here, or there. It's all a click away. But it's nice to know that stranding without books still occurs. It makes me more cautious.

Two months ago I was stuck in the D.C. airport with one chapter left to read in Andrea Seigel's book (hoarded until 1 a.m. when I broke down and read it) and a fistful of bad magazines, the worst I could stomach reading. There. Was. No. Book. Store. Accessible.

Talk about miserable. I almost had to write.

That will never happen again.

* Except, of course, for the high browness of it all. If my family had been seeking out a vacay bookspot, it would have been for paperback romances and westerns (mom and dad, but same difference really, if you've ever read them), and the Stephen King novels would have been in high supply, serving both my brother and me.

UPDATED: See the incomparable Jimmy Beck on this piece at Old Hag. Much envy and glee provoked.


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