Sunday, April 17, 2005

Recycled Vinyl Blues

It seems that my Titanium Membership in one of those temps perdus InterNet clubs has expired. Not being, as they used to say, clubbable, I think I shall not renew my membership, which is $39.00 -- though, as the club helpfully points out, these things ought to be put in perspective, so it's really only $3.25 a month. Or just shy of eleven cents a day, come to that. But I don't use the thing, and find its regular happy e-mails, so exclamatory, so overflowing with directionless enthusiasm, something of a bore. During the course of my membership, I've tentatively contacted two or three classmates from those golden days of yore -- and found, not entirely unexpectedly, that we now have nothing to say to one another. I've posted idly to several billboards -- Favorite Books, Favorite Classical Recordings, the sort of thing I can do in my sleep (and, if I limit myself to fewer than a hundred entries, do entirely differently every time.) These are earnest enough affairs, and it's nice to see that people are enthusiastic about such things -- but, really, my taste is off off-mainstream, and then some, and I find myself with an uncomfortably forced smile on my face when challenged to comment politely on The Catcher in the Rye or On the Road or The Lord of the Flies or The Grapes of Wrath or The Bell Jar. I have nothing to say about these books, certainly nothing polite and considerate and respectful, and I am well brought up enough to save my gnashings and thrashings on certain literary topics for the proper venues. I have less than nothing to say about the ubiquitous fantasy omnilogies that litter bookstores these days, and which seem to gather fans whose obsession is matched only by their unaffected good cheer. I even received a stern lecture from one fellow because I had thoughtlessly attributed the recent suicide of Hunter S. Thompson to despair and mental instability, silly me, rather than bravery and taking control of his own fate or something, I forget the details. Give me a forbearance award for electing not to reply to that one.

Still and all, a few hours tussling with strangers was not in the end worth $39.00, and if I were to spend the money I'd just as soon use it towards my lapsed subscription to the delightful The New Criterion, but I'll have to see how the expenses pan out this month before I go clipping coupons and searching the drawers for stamps. That's as may be, but I did strike a spark or two with a few postings, with a few people who seemed to share with me a common approach to the things of this world -- persons who were, not to put too fine a point on it, "born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." Grew up that way, too, no doubt. Anyway, I'd saved a few of those billboard postings here and there, and and will be recycling here -- before returning to such urgent topics as giallo movies, latterday analytic philosophy, the vanity of our intellectual sects, and obscure dance bands of the swing era. The following was written in response to Dawn, who was moving from Virginia to New Hampshire, if you can imagine such a thing, and who ought to drop a line or two if she's still reading this blog. The subject was ostensibly moving, and the burdens that books bring thereto. If this seems out of context, it is:

I read an article (I have to stop reading articles) which asserted that moving is one of the top five (or three, or something) most stressful experiences in life. I am not sure I believe this, as I know how these surveys are usually structured: they give you twenty "life-events," and ask you to rate them 1 to 10 according to stress. I'm sure they didn't include having your legs severed in a nocturnal railway accident, being dragged by a phosphorescent rat to an obelisk in the desert where your gradeschool teachers have gathered to laugh robotically at you, and then waking up. To find yourself in a speeding railway car-- Wait, I'm scaring myself.

Anyway, I grant the basic point of the poll. I've moved on many occasions, and hated it each time. The last time was twenty years ago, and I remember thinking then, Books, books, books. (Books, books, books, books.) Why couldn't we have normal hobbies, such as collecting miniatures in cork, mounting butterflies, making Useful Things we would just have to buy anyway in the "workshop," or heavy drinking? The number of books has scarcely decreased in the intervening years, due I'm sure to midnight commingling, though I have yet to catch them at it, because books, as we all know, are very clever. I do not want to move again, any more than I would like to personally move Mt. Rushmore to the Aegean Sea. My sister-in-law, who is always generous with quality advice, has helpfully inquired over the years, "Why don't you just throw them out?"

Anyway, you have my deepest sympathies. And awe at your bravery: You're buying even more books a week before the move? Some might think that impractical, but I interpret it as a classic gesture of defiance at the gods. Like most such gestures, futile (and I would argue against your going out into thunderstorms for a while), but admirable.

We shall have to further discuss the biochemical ecstasies of book shopping (CD shopping, too) -- which somehow I never get from spending significantly larger amounts of money at Home Depot or at Target. My brother the other day was reminiscing about how we used to "spend 3 or 400 dollars a pop at Tower Records." This cannot be right; my wife would have strangled me in my sleep, and any jury would have let her go free after 5 minutes deliberation. Also, my brother has not lived within 300 miles of me for 30 years, which would make what he presents as habitual really only highly occasional at best. Though all of these books and CDs could be used to make an effective counter-argument, if taken out of context by unscrupulous prosecutors.