Hey, Guys! Last Monday I was not at all in town (Tampa is a beautiful place to spend a March Monday), and this Monday I'm late with the post, but I'm definitely posting, so that's something. I did a lot of talking-about-books in Tampa. The friends with whom I stayed are the sort of people who have read widely, who laugh at my affinity for the 19th Century British Novel, and who are able to suggest improvements to my course of reading. I've been told to read Crime And Punishment as soon as possible and to follow it up with some J.D. Salinger ("All of Salinger is great - he only published four books."). While in Tampa, I had the chance to go to Oxford Exchange - probably the most pretentiously-hipster place I ever hope to set foot in. There was, of course, an entire section devoted to books and I did, of course, have to buy at least one. I chose a creative's travel-guide to London in preparation for my trip next year and a newish French novel - The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain. I'm not saying the latter choice was the most groundbreaking literature ever written (it was a simple, sweet, predictable, very enjoyable story), but I loved it. Sometimes, you know, you just want a book that does exactly what you hope it will do. The Red Notebook did that. I got so lost in the book that I momentarily forgot I was in Florida at all and had to blink round for a moment or two before I realized where I was.
Perhaps my favorite part of Oxford Exchange was when I checked out at the desk with the preppy fellow in glasses. He slipped the titles across the desk to himself, palm down. His mouth quirked in a smile as he read the titles.
"London...and Paris....which will it be?"
I laughed. "Going to London next year."
"But why not go to Paris too? I mean, you're already over there." He announced my total and leaned on the counter. "You can take the tunnel or something."
I couldn't not let my cracking-grin out. "Have you been?"
"Yeah. When I was twelve. I wish I remembered more of it. I'm sorry I can't give you recommendations."
"That's all right. I want to go to the Eiffel Tower at eleven o'clock at night." I don't know why I told him that, but it wanted to be announced."
He grinned. "Yeah? Why eleven o'clock?"
"Oh, I don't know. I think it'd be prettiest then. The city might be a little quiet. The lights would all be out. I might have it more to myself."
He tossed his head and laughed. "I bet everyone has that idea."
"Well, hey, eleven o'clock's all right, but you don't want to be out in Paris after midnight. They say strange things start to happen."
"Is that so?" My mind swirled around and caught hold of his reference, tugging me back to the surface. "Right - well, I think I'll be all right as long as I don't get into any old cars with dead authors."
He beamed. "Exactly - you know, the movie?"
"Yeah! Midnight in Paris." I mentally blessed that random film choice on a Russian airline and turned to leave. "Have a great day."
"You too! Enjoy London and Paris!"
Another bright book-realm moment of the trip was talking home-libraries with one brother and seeing the personal library of the other. So many beautiful hard-bound editions. Such a wealth of knowledge in one location. Do you ever feel like that? Like if you could just make it through the entirety of the shelves (even of one small personal library) you'd be about twice as smart as you currently are? I do constantly. And it's a hopeful thing, you know, because there's always a chance you'll stumble upon some stroke of genius in a yet-unread book.
I've also been inspired recently by something I'm hoping to turn into at least a piece of flash-fiction if not a short story. If I'm really ambitious it could make it into a novella sized story, but we'll see. For now, know that I'm reading Henry V cozily, thumbing again through Chesterton's Orthodoxy as I feel like it, and putting Crime And Punishment on hold at the library. Ho for expanding one's mind!
What are you reading, and do you have any recommendations for really good modern fiction?