Mighty Jenn (mightyjenn) wrote,
Mighty Jenn

muss es sein?

Sometimes you decide to read a book just for one good sentence. Sometimes you decide to buy a book for that one resonant phrase. Sometimes there is no decision, only imperative: you must buy the book for the sentence that blanks your mind, shocks you with recognition, floods you with feeling. Es muss sein. I can't even browse a single Bukowski sentence unless I know I have enough money for the book.

Books are seductive -- one line and I'm in love, for now. This summer I rudely asked to borrow a book from a home I was visiting 2000 kilometers away because Jonathan Franzen began a sentence "In the erotic broadsheets of the New York Times" -- I'll get to return it this Christmas. It's true, the pages of the Times are sensual and exciting like a lover. I'm addicted to their feel and smell. They fascinate me and educate me and challenge me. I wish I could spend all day exploring them but I'll settle for something quick. Small noises, like the rustle of a corner, make my heart flutter and the glimpse of it makes me just a little bit happier. The website is not the same -- it's like a long-distance relationship, or like my lover is distracted. But it is free.

On one recent trip to Powell's I allowed myself to drift in the orbits of my favourite literary thrills and attractions. Sale books draw me in first -- hopefully I'll find something cheap here that will help me to later shelve a more expensive find. But my circumnavigation of the sale shelves slingshots me straight into new arrivals, where I find a collection of travel writing. P.J. O'Rourke starts his piece "Sometimes it seems that the aim of modernity is to flush the romance out of life" and I'm hooked. I carom on the tangents to cognitive science, nautical, travel and cookbooks -- here Jim Harrison has collected his writings on food and I don't need to look at a single page before I add it to the stack, but at least it's on sale. Finally I succomb to the urge I've been resisting and circling: the gravitational pull of the Blue Room is strong; there lies "LITERATURE," burning and glowing in my imagination as the centre of this urban galaxy. The energy of my passion adds almost nothing to the equation of this giant star, but it fuels me. It is in the Blue Room that my body feels at once tense and relaxed, that my heart pounds with each calm breath, that my eyes scan intensely but slowly, leisurely, as I ping back and forth among my favourite authors' initials, eventually lighting upon the imperative sentence, whose casing I must own. It is here that I experience that leap of the stomach, that burst and ache of the heart, that is comparable only to loving someone who doesn't love you back. It's not the desire that hurts, it's the knowledge of the hurt to come. Your body doesn't deal in any uncertainty here, for here is only inevitability; there is no question of whether you will spend the money you don't have, just as there is no question that you will return to your love with open arms and heart.
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