Over the past 2 weeks, Andrew and I have logged about 4000 kilometres. We started in Montreal and visited various points in the Maritimes (Moncton, Halifax, but mostly Cape Breton where we spent Christmas) and then made a last minute decision to visit dear friends in New York City, driving through Maine (which always feels like the wilder, more remote cousin of Vermont to me) and Connecticut. In Cape Breton, we spent a lot of time doing what you’re supposed to do at Christmas: eating. And I relaxed too, and breathed in a lot of clean, country air, and I read Ghosts by Cesar Aira, a novella set in Argentina. It’s the holiday season in that book too, New Year’s Eve actually, and a Chilean family is living in a construction site that will eventually be luxury condos. Ghosts live in the building too, and they fly around naked and covered in dust and do things like chill bottles of wine for the humans and invite the oldest daughter to a party at midnight. I also started reading Charles Portis’ Dog of the South, and it’s an amazing thing, this book, funny and strange, all these details about characters who get into the weirdest situations (another man has stolen not only Ray’s wife, but also his credit card and car, and Ray sets out to track down the two lovebirds in Mexico), an aimless, sparkling road novel.
Once we left Nova Scotia, there wasn’t as much time to get absorbed in a novel, but whenever I go to New York City I make sure to visit The Strand, the bookstore famous for having over 18 miles of books. The Strand is overwhelming and always packed with so many people and there is something about seeing so many books that sometimes makes me wonder what the point is of ever bringing another book into the world because they’re all there already, shoved into talls shelves or piled on tables, and the prices! The discounts! But that feeling is fleeting and I will amble through and pick up books, put them down, pick up others and usually try to cap the amount I buy at 4 or 5. This trip I emerged with 2666 by Roberto Bolano, another Aira novella, Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and a copy of Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem which I’ve read, but decided I wanted to own. These books, along with books I got for Christmas (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Virgil’s Aeneid, 2009 Best Short Stories) and a book of essays about photography that I purchased at the Aperture Foundation gallery make up my reading list for the next few months.
I’m excited to read more books in 2010, to discover something that will make me feel feverish and excited or simply understood, that quiet, humming content you get when you read the right thing at the right time. Screw being overwhelmed by books at The Strand – we need all of those books, and more of them, because there are too many moments in our lifetimes and everyone else’s lifetimes that should be documented or reflected or heightened.