Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: Trapped without a book

Have you ever been trapped somewhere without a book? Ok, I haven't either. But just recently I was trapped somewhere with only a book I hadn't been enjoying. I was only reading it in protest against the elementary school's policy banning it. It was not well written or entertaining or even just plain escapist. It was cliched, whiny, ridiculous and I only stuck with it to prove my point, cantankerous curmudgeon that I am. I read it on the down times when I was in the school to work in the library so I only had to endure it every other week for less than an hour at a stretch. But then I took my oldest son to tennis lessons and wrongly assumed that I had another book in the car. I knew that this entirely unfulfilling book lived in the car, mind you, but I thought I had stashed another one in there as well. I hadn't. And let me tell you, that was brutal. Not only did I have to resort to finishing the book that makes me weep for the integrity of the publishing world* but I finished it in record time (did I mention it's written on a ridiculously low grade level given the target audience's age?) and found myself with simply nothing else to read. I had to resort to sorting through coupons and throwing out anything expired. I cleaned out my purse despite the fact that I am not one of those people who could host an archeological dig in her purse. I organized the glove compartment. And I sat fidgeting, grumpy I had done this to myself: wasted valuable reading time, first on an unworthy book and second by not having a spare with me. I am henceforth gathering a carload's worth of books to accompany me everywhere so I don't face this hideous squandering of book time ever again! What's your worst horror story about being bookless?

This week, my travels in books took me all over. I wept through the journey a mother made as she lost one premature baby and shepherded the other through the tangle of medical horrors that is so frequently the lot of babies born too soon. I chuckled through essays by an openly homosexual comedian, saddened that some of the issues he riffs on still exist so many years after he originally wrote this collection. I slipped into mulatto society through the short stories of a star author of the Harlem Renaissance. I escaped grave danger and rewarded obsessive love with the sparkly yet alabaster vampires. I watched as a man and woman married in haste and repented at leisure, weathering the requisite misunderstandings and threats to their newfound love. I struggled with a mother whose son was diagnosed with a catch-all disorder as she tried to pull him back from the edge of his own world and into what we so arrogantly declare normal. I started a few new books as well so next week promises to take me many, varied places as well.

*Maybe it's not as bad as all that. The book may not have been up my alley and it may have been a shining example of dreadful writing, but many people love it and so of course it should have been published. It is a definite phenomenon. And whether that is a bad sign or a good one depends on the reader. This reader thinks it kicks bunnies but hey, no one has crowned me Queen of the World yet, so...


  1. I know how it feels to be without a good book. But sometimes it makes you read a book you would not have picked up otherwise!

  2. When I was a teenager, I always carried a book with me. As an adult, I switched to magazines or other entertainment devices like a Nintendo DS or my smartphone. Still, I only pack my "survival bag" if I think that I am going to be stuck somewhere. There have been a couple times recently when I thought we were going on a quick errand but it turned into me sitting in the car for 30 minutes while my husband runs into the hardware store "right quick". Arggh!

  3. I've always had more than one book under my car seat to avoid situations like yours. Lately I haven't needed them as much because my 16-year-old can drive!

  4. I am one of those people who carries a big bag with them everywhere, so I always make sure I have something in my bag to read. My current book of choice comes with me everywhere.
    If I happen to forget that book, I always keep copies of "Bookmarks" magazine in my bag. It is a magazine that reviews books, so it gives me some other things to think about.

  5. That's my nightmare scenario, right there :-). Sometimes I do get caught without a book (usually because it didn't fit into my bag for some reason), but since my Kindle is ultra-portable, that happens less often than it used to.

    Sounds like being bookless might have been better than your particular reading nightmare, though :-).

  6. It hasn't happened that often, but the few times I'm early to the Hebrew school pick-up I'm stuck reading the local newspaper.

  7. I carry a book with my every where I go. I keep an extra one in my car (just in case) and usually have a back up magazine or 2 stashed around as well.

    Once I was traveling in Europe and I went through all the books I packed faster than I thought I would. We had to catch a LONG train to Italy and my only shopping options were the 40 or so books at the train station in the small town of Nice. I had read at least half of them and the rest didn't look good at all (western or romance novels) but I found Shutter Island by Dennis LeHane, bought it and loved it! I had never heard of him at the time. I've since read all of his stuff. So, I guess sometimes it turns out ok. But I'm still keeping my back up books stashed around.


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