Things that are Priceless

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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.

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Books: The Very Medium

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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.”

My Girl Canon

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A friend of a friend has a new worthwhile website up and running. Check it out today to read a list of the ten books that have most moved me. Read below for a more detailed description. Or follow them here: http://girlcanon.tumblr.com/.

Girl Canon- About Us

“The power of a personal canon, secret or not, lies in the authority one needs to create it. Women need to trust that they know what’s good, what’s bad, and what serves them intellectually in order to reject or reclaim the books in their lives. […] What “No Regrets” argues for most powerfully is the right of women to reject that line of thinking and to believe that they are qualified to decide what literature should be. It argues for the public claiming of formerly secret canons: the right to create your own vision of what is best in the culture and to have that vision influence what books other people read and value.” – Sady Doyle, “The Perils of Reading While Female,” In These Times, 2014.

We are GIRL CANON, and we want to know what you read.

grrrlcanon [AT] gmail.com

I Have Been a Writer

I have been a writer since sixth grade. A quick response to the common question, What do you want to be? (For the record, my teacher, whose name I fortunately cannot remember, then also quickly said, No, no I mean, what do you really want to be, like for a career? Her response will be addressed in a much later much angstier post.)

Later that same year, I wallpapered my bedroom with my own (mostly terrible) poetry. (Below is a brooch I’d like to buy on Etsy.com.)

For Progress in Writing

So this writing career is  approximately twenty years old. And yet, I have never belonged to a book club. Sure, sure, I’ve debated plenty of books. In living rooms, literature classes, at bus stops. Once I even debated Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in a public restroom. The arguing went on for so long that three of my friends eventually came in to see if everything was all right. Freshman year of college at Brandeis University, we all were required to read Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, but that’s the closest I’ve come to the official tradition.

Truth be told, I’m not much for traditions or clubs, or even large gatherings. I prefer intimacy. I prefer not having things in common. A lot of times, I simply prefer to be left alone.

On Friday, however, all this will (at least temporarily) change. A mix of intelligent women will gather, some of literary backgrounds, some not, and we will eat and drink and discuss Richard Morais’s The Hundred-Foot Journey. I’m skeptical. I’m excited. I’m unsure what to expect. I will be there to listen.

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Reasons not to Write Numbers Four and Five: Romania & Turkey

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(Above: Dracula’s Castle, Bran, Romania and Dracula’s writing desk)

In lands pregnant with folklore, filled by mysterious forests, enchanting music and, above all, equally interesting people, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Yes, you packed notebooks of varying sizes, plenty of pencils, a pen or two, and a camera. You kept them (always) in your interior jacket-front pocket. Hiking, driving, on a boat down the Bosporus. (You’d be more upset if your trusty green spiral notebook was pick-pocketed over your passport and so feel for its outline frequently.) While you slept, the items waited not-so-patiently on the hotel nightstand.

And so, now that you’re home, what have you got to show? How many pages did your writing occupy? How many of those notebooks did you pack back away in your suitcase as they quickly filled? How many pencils lost their led at your leaning?

Answer:

1. Not much.

2. Six small–reporter-pad-sized–pages.

3. Zero notebooks packed back away.

4. Zero mechanical pencils that need re-filling.

But there are moments. Just moments. Somewhere. Everywhere. Written and un-.

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(Above: Bookstore, Istanbul, Turkey)

Our Weirdly Wonderful World: Days One & Two

DAY 1

 

My internet company delivers a bag of microwave popcorn.

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DAY 2

A stranger at the garden center gives me a bagful of books.

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