Bed time, last night.
Fairy Tales of the World: Stories to Read Aloud
Introduction by Jennie Ingham
Two weekends ago, my son and I attended the Maastricht Antiquarian Book & Print Fair. In a holy place of three-piece suits and German pocket watches, copies of James Joyce novels selling for 20,000 Euros, and a floor paved by seventeenth-century tombs, no one expected a stroller.
One man asked me if my son could read yet, elbowing the carrier. Never too soon to start collecting, commented another. People bent and peered in and smiled. The security guard graciously helped me lift the buggy up and down the grand entrance stairwell. How’s Mom? he asked on our way out. My only regret is that we should have stayed longer.
No purchases. No particularly educational moments. Otto fell asleep before we got to the Royal Family’s partial encyclopedia collection, so he couldn’t put on the white gloves and leaf through. I didn’t even crouch to get his photo next to it.
The moral? I don’t know. I’m not saying the place would have been better with more buggies—I liked that we were the anomaly. Nor am I saying that you should let your toddler careen down aisles of unguarded treasures. (I found one unassuming book that looked interesting—no glass case, no plastic wrap—and, upon paging through, also found its price tag: 750 Euros. Step one: set book down gently. Step two: slowly back away smiling.) I guess I’m just saying I’m glad we went.
*If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll find a woman with the unenviable job of delivering lunch—soup!—to the vendors. I watched her navigate stalls of maps, some of which date back to the 1100s. I also watched person after wandering person—hands behind back, scarf loosely-draped just so—step out in front of her.
Alright, so I’ve got some books. A lot of which I’ve read: college assignments, trendy new releases, and old, wonderfully soft spots. A lot of which I’ve not really (ever?) touched. (I get free shipping if I buy four more books? Oooh, what’s this in the free used book bin? A book for Christmas? You should have!)
I’ve also got a Goodreads profile. A sorely neglected one. So here’s the project: catalogue the books I’ve got and then read them. All of them. Not quickly. Not too slowly. Very medium.*
When we moved from The States to the Netherlands, the books fit neatly in 35 boxes. (See a the partial shipment here.) I’ll set a goal of finishing them before we move back. When? you ask along with my parents. Who knows. I’ll keep you posted.
Today, I’ll continue working on a book that was a gift from my dad to my husband. (If it’s in my living room, it’s in my tally.) It’s called Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf. Nonfiction about the brain’s acquisition of language. So far so good.
*Bonus points to anyone who can find an old news clip. A reporter, standing at the bottom of a sledding hill, asked a young girl if she liked to go very fast or very slow. The girl paused and then said, “Um, I like to go very medium.”
On Valentine’s Day, my parents are flying to Chile. Not to celebrate the holiday. Not to be romantic. They’re leaving on Saturday because of some precise combination of flight prices and work schedules. (Did I forget to mention my dad hates to travel?)
Growing up, I didn’t witness much kissing, or even hand holding, between my parents. And sometimes, I thought that was weird. And then one day junior year of high school, I witnessed my boyfriend kiss his mom. Smack. On. The. Lips. And I thought that was weird then too.
So moral is, go out. Today. On Valentine’s Day. The day after. Kiss or hold hands, or don’t. With your boyfriend or your mom, or your Golden Labradoodle. Or, as my six-month-old son prefers, grab someone’s face with a bit of force and then open-mouth slobber whatever protruding part–nose, ear, chin–is closest. It’s weird too. And I love it.
The book: Teach Yourself Dutch by Gerdi Quist and Dennis Strik, copyright 2003. The subtitle: All-Around Confidence.
The find: two tickets from Madison, Wisconsin to Detroit, Michigan. Date: Friday, July 6, 2012.
Unlike most, if I wake up tired, I have a choice. I’m in my pajamas after all, and therein squats the problem. The best part about being an author is, you guessed it, the same thing that makes it hard.
There are some writers who are able to convince themselves of anything. But if I could say to myself, You’re not tired, then I could also say things like, You believe in the Easter Bunny.
When I had a more traditional job, it was easier to see myself romantically, easier to fantasize stealing away minutes to write. It was also easier to believe that stealing away those minutes was the right thing to do.
So now we skip to the best part of the best part: being an author forces me to have a balanced life. If I wake up and I’m sick or tired or hung-over, I can’t make myself sit at the computer and write well. I just can’t. So if I want to be a writer, then I’ve got to get enough sleep. Things don’t have to be perfect. Occasionally, I row my personal best drunk. (That happened only once in my three years of collegiate crew.) But usually, that’s not how it works.
So, fine, go out and drink like Hemmingway. Early Hemmingway. Smoke a cigar. But then brush your teeth and chug some water and go to bed. After all, it’s easy enough to second guess yourself as a writer. Not working out or getting a good meal or enough sleep, makes it even easier. A good writer is a confident one.