For the unemployed job seekers in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bait and Switch, keeping busy became an end in itself. For business owners and employees of all stripes, at all levels—from the tiniest to the most monstrous in size—being too busy can be more a problem than a solution. I heard it again on Saturday from the man who paused long enough in front of my book display at the Best for Kids Bake Sale and Bazaar to tell me, “I don’t have time to read books.” Really? I could as easily say that I don’t have time to bake cookies or join a yoga class. For most of us, though, the truth is that we find time for the things we really want to do. We all make different choices, that’s all.
It was a rainy weekend. It would have been a perfect weekend to stay at home in bed with a pile of books, on retreat from the world! There was, however, the sale on Saturday, and we also had very welcome visitors to our home overnight. So after a full day on Saturday, our whole crowd going to the Happy Hour for dinner, and then breakfast to be gotten for all on Sunday, my weekend reading time had to be stolen. And steal it I certainly did.
First, I took a book with me to the sale. My feeling (and I could be wrong about this) is that too many idle vendors standing eagerly in front of their displays often frighten off potential buyers. I don’t want to be unfriendly and aloof, of course, so I’d stand for a while, smile at those passing, greet people I knew, welcome those who stopped, ask them (if they began looking at books in earnest) if there was a particular age they were shopping for, etc. But during those times during the day when it seemed that vendors and volunteers (sadly) outnumbered shoppers, I gave my feet a break and escaped into Tony Judt’s memoir essays. Can’t say I got a lot of reading done, but even a paragraph of Judt’s exquisite prose is as refreshing as a poem. I even managed to inspire in one shopper a desire for the book I was reading!
(“Would I like it?” she asked. “Do you like trains?” I asked her. She loved trains. Yes, she will love this book, though she’ll be reading it on a plane to California.)
One of my successful strategies for stealing time is to get up before daylight. As I say, we went out for dinner with our houseful of company on Saturday evening. After we came home and sat around sociably until bedtime (ours, that is), they went out again. This meant a quiet house in the morning when I got up to make coffee and get cozy with my book. Having promised myself Spirits and Wine as a Sunday treat (doesn’t that sound just perfect?), I had a nice, long stretch with the novel before I had to lay it aside to start oatmeal and mix pancake batter. Then later in the day I got back to it and shut the world out again.
Sarah the Dog always needs to go outside for a run. Laundry is a never-ending task. Grocery shopping the way we do it (the European method, i.e., almost daily) takes a bite after bite out of one’s life. But like my friends who wouldn’t dream of going a week without an aerobic workout and/or a session with weights, I find it hard to imagine any significant stretch of days without the pleasure of reading books—and if I have to steal the time to read, that’s what I’ll do.
What I won’t do is tell you much more about the story line of Spirits and Wine. You already know there’s a ghost and a mystery. You know the story takes place in a little town on Lake Michigan. You know there’s a connection with wine. Beyond that, I am going to keep mum, so as not to spoil a single surprising twist in the story as it unreels for you, the eager reader!
You do remember, I hope, that Susan will be at Dog Ears Books on Friday? That’s at 5 p.m. And if you’re both an early riser and a television watcher, you can catch an interview with her on TV 7&4 on Tuesday morning. The show is “Writer’s Minute,” and it airs at 6:25 a.m., though the interview should actually run about three minutes.
My calendar shows me that I have a 9 a.m. meeting on Monday. Looks like I’ll have to get up pretty early to get in reading time and dog walk.