Thursday, May 10, 2007

Prosthetic Shoulders for the Book-Needy

Last Sunday, I flew to Houston, Texas (work again) and I decided that, although I was scheduled to be there for two weeks, I would pack light. This meant that, instead of bringing my super-large, heavy duty suitcase, I would bring my light, compact carry-on, which I would then "check" because the bad thing about leaving ole' Heavy Duty at home is that there isn't any room to pack any of my books. Luckily, I have a heavy duty bag/tote which provides ample room (probably too much room) for all of my books, magazines, wallet and all other feminine purse things which somehow find their way to being carried around on my shoulder. Imagine this list of books and magazines I thought it wise to put in my bag:

Big, Fat, American Baby by Judy Budnitz
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
How to Read Like a Writer by Francine Prose
Heat by Bill Buford
The Complete Plays of Christopher Marlowe by Christopher Marlowe
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
The Shakespeare Riots by Nigel Cliff
Did I mention all of these were hardback? They were. Not to mention:
the current Bookforum
an old issue of The New York Times Review of Books
and...I'm counting...four old issues of The New Yorker

Not so bad, right? Sure, I was struggling but I'd rather lug around seven books than to leave one behind only to discover that that one is the book I'd rather to be reading on the plane. The problem with this arrangement is that I never leave room for books that I might likely buy while I'm away. I buy books at the airport. I can't help it. Even as I'm leaning over, almost buckling from the weight of my bag, those airport bookstores just beacon me (Hey you. Yeah, you with the big bag of books. Come and see what I've got. Come on, you've got time to kill. It never hurts to look, right?)

I don't usually pick anything up because the selection is often very poor (New York Times Top 10 bestsellers, eh, I'm not often very interested) but this week I had the misfortune of coming across some very well-stocked airport bookstores, one of which happened to be independently owned. So in addition to the seven books I was already carrying, I bought four more books - that's right, four more books. I bought two on the way to Houston and two more coming back:

In Persuasion Nation
by George Saunders
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

So there I was dragging myself through the airport in Houston carrying eleven books. The gentleman I sat next to on the plane looked at me as I jammed my grotesquely large bag under the seat in front of me, looked at my books, looked at me again as I opened the book I had in my hand - I was reading my first chapter of Special Topics in Calamity Physics - smiled and asked the question I get all the time: "So you're a student, huh?"

"No," I say with a smile. "I just like to read a lot." He blinked once, twice, shook his head (probably wondering why he had to sit next to the crazy book lady), then returned to the nice, single paperback he'd slipped into the seat pocket. I envied his leg space and his probably un-aching shoulder. But on the almost three hour flight from Houston to D.C. he only had a choice between one book and sleep. I, however, had eleven choices plus sleep. That's worth the prosthetic shoulder I'll probably need after my right shoulder falls off.


M said...

Just stumbled upon your blog and it looks like we have some similar tastes... I can't wait to start exploring!

J.S. Peyton said...

Thanks for visiting M! Hope you like what you find!

Eva said...

I'm echoing M. :) Found your blog through some other blog's link (can't remember name) and immediately understood. Funnily enough, at one point today I was walking around with seven books in my bag and five more in my arms!

J.S. Peyton said...

Wow, twelve books! I hope you didn't have to go very far...

stefanie said...

What fun! Having just gone away for a weekend trip and taken three books with me, I can relate to this.

Matt said...

On my recent trip to Las Vegas all I really wanted to do was go to a bookstore. I actually found one in the Mandalay Bay, but by the time I could get around to visiting it they had closed! Oh well, I would have been wanting to spend money I didn't have.

I just hope you don't have to one day decide between buying a prosthetic shoulder and buying more books! That would not be a good situation.

J.S. Peyton said...

Matt, that would indeed be a hard choice. Then again, there's always my left shoulder... : )

SFP said...

Oh, I would love to sit beside you on a plane!

J.S. Peyton said...

Spf, that would be fun. We could exchange books for the duration of the flight. And at least someone on the flight for once wouldn't think I'm crazy for carting so many books around. : )