Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Subliminally Seduced

So I guess you all like me better when I post cute cat pictures than smelly old used books? Well, I don't care. I'll post some more fuzzy critter photos soon, but first some more rambling thoughts on the book habit.

You know, anytime you buy something above and beyond the level of necessity, you’re indulging in at least the smallest bit of magical thinking. Whether we’ve all been hopelessly acculturated by Western mass media or it’s just the human condition, we’re all suckers for that little synaptic burst of seeing ourselves as we want to be when we make a consumer choice. Noticeably hip in those shoes, a domestic goddess on that couch, suave and speedy and listen, completely different from all those other midlife crisis guys in that low-slung red convertible.

It’s OK. It’s just how we’re wired. Even if the fantasy you’re buying is just a flash too quick for your brain to register – remember that book Subliminal Seduction? I spent hours with the illuminated magnifying glass I was supposed to use for stamp collecting – yes I WAS that much of a geeky kid – squinting at my parents’ Newsweeks, looking for the teeny tiny penises in the ice cubes of the drink ads. I don’t think I ever found one, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there.

So I got a flash the other day while looking at a table of used books out in the sunshine: The secret vision I’m buying into when I buy these books isn’t of being part of some floating intelligentsia, or how much I’m going to learn. It’s all about having the time to read them.

I work a regular day job, commute an hour each way. I blog for the good folks over at Readerville. I cook dinner most nights; I walk the dog; I keep a large-ish house full of pets reasonably decent; and when the weather turns nice I try to do things in the garden. I have a partner at home, I have a kid in college, I have a mom the next town over whom I visit at least every other weekend, I have a lot of friends I keep up with. I do my best to keep up some momentum of a creative life.

But time? I have so, SO little time. I always thought when my son left home I’d have so much more time than I did before, but things just swept in to fill the vortex – things I love, things I treasure. And I find I can’t do it on five or six hours’ sleep anymore. Ironically, not only is time speeding up, but I need to spend that much more of it unconscious.

I don’t think I manage my time particularly poorly. It’s just like money – I’m good with it, and reasonable about it, but there’s just never enough.

And all of a sudden I was able to catch that small spark as it snaked past my lizard-brain: The little flash of a dream I’m dreaming when I dreamily browse through books is of myself reading them. That’s all. By spending my $2 and $3 on dinged-up, yellowing oddities, I’m giving myself a wishful gift. I will have the time to read all these books I buy. I will have a comfortable, quiet place and downtime and no emergencies. It will be like summer vacations, stretched out on my stomach working my way through a pile of library books, or hunched over Newsweek looking for altered pixels in a whiskey ad with no agenda other than having to go down to dinner in a while. It’s a hopeful promise I’m making myself.

I will read them, I will. Maybe not all of them. I guess it depends on how long I live, or at least how long I can see the pages in front of me. But as far as strange little bargains with my fantasy self go, I guess that one isn’t so terrible.

Cheaper than a red convertible, anyway.

Yesterday's find: Ranters and Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-92. Oh, I love Griel Marcus -- he's so old school. He reminds me of when I used to read the new music reviews in the Village Voice religiously, back when the Voice cost money. He always erred on the side of inappropriately highbrow, so what's not to love? The Voice blurb on the back of this book, in fact, says: "Like Adorno, and before him Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, Marcus's forte is the aphorism." Considering he's writing about people who spat on you from the stage being incorporated into the AOR mainstream, I think that definitely qualifies as covering all your bases. The best part? Is that whoever had this book before me underlined and highlighted. Somebody took their history of pop music verrry seriously. How geeky!

Just looking at this book makes me feel younger. It has the promise of a good solid wayback machine, filled with band names that will have the power to transport me back to heady college concert-going days and bad hair and uncomfortable boots. I can't wait.



Blogger Cara deBeer said...

I love Greil Marcus, too.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought of you the other day, walking up Sixth Avenue after the Film Forum, there was a table with the weirdest, kind of scary-pathetic collection of books -- I wish I could remember some examples, it gave off the air of the dregs of the dregs, the last tattered remnants of an assortment of enthusiasms that weren't all that salubrious when they were still fresh. No Marcusian or Krimmish treasures.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I know the guys you're talking about, brklynharuspex. They're the super down-and-outers, although I've gotten some good books from some of them further up by 8th Street. The ones that feel like they're getting your hands dirty when you pick them up even I don't want.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Miss T said...

Whoo. I could have written this one, I relate to it so deeply. The wish for more time, for time to run slowly like it did when I was younger. And yeah, I had that book. And yeah, I spent hours peering closely at ads, too. I swore I found stuff in them.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous lynn said...

I loved this:

"I spent hours with the illuminated magnifying glass I was supposed to use for stamp collecting – yes I WAS that much of a geeky kid – squinting at my parents’ Newsweeks, looking for the teeny tiny penises in the ice cubes of the drink ads."

And I was doing the exact same thing, but I was looking for naked woman parts. (I didn't even think to look for penises.) They were supposed to be there, dammit, but I never found one either. To this day I wonder what my mother must have thought seeing me turning the magazine upside down and in all different directions. I'm pretty sure she thought it best not to ask.

Needless to say, your post totally resonated with me, too. There is an instant rush with buying a book and imagining yourself reading it. Even if you never get to it - you almost did. Really.

Sometimes I look around my house, and see all the unread books, and I just know I'm not going to die because I haven't read them yet. There are so many books here, and I'm so easily distracted, that this pretty much makes me immortal. How cool is that.

1:13 AM  

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