Having this conversation several times – “Can you recommend a book?” “How about Room?” “No, I can’t/don’t want to/won’t read that.” – has made me think about the books we don’t read. Not the books we don’t read because we don’t like the author or genre, like I don’t read Don DeLillo or science fiction, but the books we don’t read because we don’t want to go there.
I’ve been a book reader for as long as I can remember, but as of this week — Tuesday October 25, to be precise — I will finally be a book writer.
It is thrilling to write that sentence, but as I look at it, I realize it needs to be parsed. It could be said that I have been a book writer, that is, someone who is writing a book, for longer than I’m willing to tell you (let’s just say that my book party invitation begins: “One dissertation, two children, three drafts, four trips to England, five houses, six jobs, and dozens of talks, articles, and reviews later…”). But Tuesday is the official publication date of my book, Time, Space, and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century British Diary, which means that as of Tuesday, I will be able to say, with no fear of dissimulation, that I am a book writer who has actually published a book.
Am I the only one who starts to shake when someone utters the words book and club in close proximity? From the bottoms of my toes and the tips of my fingers and the top of my head, arrows of desire and revulsion, anxiety and ambivalence shoot inward toward my heart and brain. Books and clubs: each category alone generates powerful feelings; together, they nearly knock me over. That so many of my friends love their book clubs only makes it worse.
Two months ago, Eva announced that she did not like old books because they were long and hard. Last month she read Little Women in a week. How did it happen? Well, the beginning of the story is technology, or perhaps that’s the end of the story, but it’s how we’ll begin.
I just finished Allegra Goodman’s new novel, The Cookbook Collector, which is adept and enjoyable (despite the lamentable 9/11 narrative opportunism), and got me thinking about books and food.
It’s pretty easy to think about books and food at our house. In fact, you could pretty much sum up our house as books and food. And records, CDs, and guitars. And American Girl Dolls with tangled hair. And hair bands. But I digress.
I gave birth to my first child fifteen years ago, which is to say, Before Parenting Trended. In the B.P.T. era, maternity clothes were ugly, car seats had no bases (let alone tethers and anchors), there was no such thing as a nursing apron, and the words baby and bump had no connection (unless the baby fell on her head). My baby was born in Berkeley, where we did have prenatal yoga, cloth diapers, and slings, but that’s because we were Berkeley, not because we were hip mamas (Hip Mama didn’t even exist; it was founded a year later, one signal of the beginning of the end of B.P.T.).