Friday, March 4, 2005

wrapped up in books

Walking around in the cold night downtown, I was on my break, getting a slice of pizza with some of the last of my dollar bills, and high on coffee, thinking about Cloud Atlas, trying to think of the last time I had been so awed by an author's writerly prowess and I think it may have been Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, that that was the last time I said to myself, Wow, Wow, Wow, how he is weaving all of this together? That was three summers ago. It was one of those trains of thought, quick association to quick association, swinging from tree branch to remembered tree branch, so happy, somehow managing to cross streets and not get hit by cars, so in a mental daze. Three summers ago in Madison, Wisconsin, I read that book. My thinking back to the book tonight conjured not so much India's independence, its plot, as it did that midwestern college town and my time there, my time working that temp job where everyday I brought that book to work and managed to only read about ten pages a day.

Then I thought to other books I loved and realized that this is how I separate periods of time in my life, with good books. I thought to A Heartbreaking Work and remembered that summer working at Yes! Organic Market in DC and how I rode the metro to work everyday reading that book. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was another metro book from that summer.

And now, I am going through them all mentally and I just hit Middlesex and said Aww, Cypress Circle, remember the three of us reading it at the same time in Sarasota. These are all finished love affairs, decent chunks of time where I was emotionally involved with something. That quote again: "A half finished book is a half finished love affair." And maybe other people think back on relationships and where they were at that period of time in their life, but tonight, I was thinking to books and to the places they evoked, where I read them, the circumstances, how I reacted to them at that time and what I think of the books now that time has given us a little bit of space for feelings to cool and mutate. I can think of so many of the books that we had in our little room in Madison, what they were, which ones I read, which ones I never even touched. And you probably don't know what I am talking about and I am not a good writer because that is what they are - good writers, I mean - people able to translate those quirky memories well enough so that they you understand and feel them too, but I don't even know how to begin to try to evoke those books, just their covers in my memory and how they don't really signify anything in particular, nothing more so than the period in time and that is all too much to try to convey, or at least to try to do so right now.

Oh my god, let's not even talk about The Marabou Stork Nightmares and tenth grade. Not tonight, okay? But man, I can feel these things, those moments in time, am back there, just by calling off book titles from my past. Nausea! Wow, it's such a sensation. Aloud!: Voice from the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe! I can't get over it. I can't believe I never noticed this or thought to much about it until tonight. And I wonder if I will associate Kafka on the Shore with my months of unemployment, mild depression, and peeing on people. I know I will and I love that - that books so easily evoke periods of time for me. Wow. Wow. Wow. Sorry, I am going through book after book, through more phases of my life, being sixteen, twenty, eighteen, and things you'll never know.

And this excites me more than it may you - say, if you were suddenly able to recall large chunks of your past with the snap of a finger - because I have such a difficult time quickly evoking periods in my past. People will ask me about high school and I will have a hard time remembering that far back, and this may be a coping mechanism, forgetting these things intentionally, but by doing this rollcall of books, I am so able to bring these things up again, these moments of time to mind and that really amazes me. Perhaps, you have an easier time evoking your past and think that this ability is totally normal and nothing to gush about it, but for me, it is not and I need to gush. The only other thing that surefire evokes past memories for me is music. Put on Spacehog, Smashing Pumpkins, or If You're Feeling Sinister, and oh my god, Time Warp, I can tell you specific things, what the tile looked like in our house then and I want to cry because I can feel those moments that in other times I have such difficulty evoking. And I don't know why I love these memories, my memories so much, why I would rather spend my night, tonight, thinking back on past years rather than going out and perhaps doing something that I might remember in future years on similar nights. It might be because I have three dollars and cannot afford to go out and do things here in this town, but I don't think so - I think there is something more intense in this - in thinking back on these things and looking at that stream of time past, where it has led, maybe even ask why those things led to this - maybe not, maybe just missing things. I don't know. You know I like these things. You do too. That is why you, why we do these, writing here in our little diaries, recalling past moments, even day old ones, bringing them to life again and again - novice necromancers.

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