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Monday, November 9, 2015

Different Pace and Content: Work at Home

November palette

Over the weekend I read through the latest Bookforum (disorientingly labeled the “December/January 2016” issue), reading that began between customers at my bookshop on Saturday and continued early Sunday morning, stopped for Sunday breakfast, and ended finally mid-morning on a sunny November day at home. I read parts of a couple pieces aloud to David after breakfast as we enjoyed a leisurely start to a day that would be largely consumed by home improvement work, but mostly I read quietly to myself, pen in hand.

One of the things I enjoy about reading Bookforum and the New York Review of Books is that they are not books, and therefore (this is the payoff) I can let myself underline with impunity, guiltlessly, compulsively, even with a sense of performing a serious readerly duty, in much the way I once marked up and made my own xeroxed copies of scholarly philosophy papers handed out by professors in graduate school. In those days, when the books were my own and not borrowed library copies, I even underlined and made marginal notes in bound philosophy texts because those texts, in those days, were my work. Casual reading was not an option: sharp focus was essential. Reading and forgetting would be time lost: I wanted to be able to relocate main lines of argument quickly, along with the writer’s points of support.

Old graduate school habits return when I read literary reviews in magazine form. What praise is the reviewer bestowing, and why? What is criticized, and how? What criticisms leveled by others does this reviewer mention and then either confirm or reject? Finally, in the end, has the reviewer convinced me to read the book – and with what particular words? Reviewer Leslie Jamison on Sunday gave me an eagerness to read Mary Gaitskill’s The Mare, an eagerness I had not felt when reading a couple other reviews elsewhere of the same book.

Bookforum and NYRB also contain whole pages of new release ads from various publishers. Pen in hand, I circle promising titles. That is part of my work these days, in the bookseller stage of my life.

This year’s October excitement for us at home was the long-awaited installation of seven new windows in our old farmhouse, along with removal and replacement of one wall’s old insulation and exterior siding. Now begins the do-it-ourselves phase: getting bedroom walls prepped and freshly painted. And so my Sunday – reading and underlining, big breakfast, then up and down ladders with rags and tools. Later, time outdoors with Sarah and a run to Northport to retrieve Chaucer and nip into the grocery store for more eggs so I could make stuffing for Sunday roast chicken. Tonight will be chicken pie.

How quickly November days reach an end! And long before they end, how sharply the temperature drops as the sun begins its afternoon drop in the west! First, “Already cold!” followed by “Already dark!”

It’s good to have plenty of books (and the promise of more), and it’s good to have stout, tight new windows, too, as days grow shorter and winter comes near. When the painting project is finished and the room put back together, walls a clean, calm, restful cocoa color, it will be good to have quiet mornings again, as I had last winter, with the fictional characters of my own creation. We were not together much over the summer, but perhaps I begin to see them more clearly for our time apart. Anyway, I’ve missed being with them.

I will, of course, be back at the bookstore tomorrow, Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sarah will be there, too.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Those are big projects, windows and painting. You'll be glad of both when they're finished. Katie doesn't seem to think it's too cold..she's outside right now as the sun goes down. Guess I should go bring her in for the night.