Sunday, December 4, 2011

A voracious appetite for novels

(My wife could probably read all the books shown here in a month.)

My wife spends more time reading novels than she does talking to me, and she talks to me a lot. During the past three weeks, she has finished eight novels, and she is half-way through the ninth. Of the approximately two dozen authors she loves to read, they, collectively, can not publish fast enough to keep up with my wife's appetite. She sends them notes of encouragement from time to time to spur them on: "Do you really need to take a vacation this year, when you should be writing?", "Please don't get another dog; they take up a lot of time." "I recommend you limit your family size to only one child. Valuable energy is expended on raising children." "If I were you, I wouldn't spend precious time watching tv." "Coffee, or some other strongly caffeinated beverage, might improve your efficiency."

Her book habit was also getting expensive. At about $12 a pop for a new paperback, I was having to cut back on my cigars and scotch. On more than one occasion, she bought a book at the store only to get home and realize she had already read it. The publishers had changed the paperback cover, and she had not recognized it. So I strongly encouraged her to use the public libraries, which she resisted because the new books were always checked out, and there was that dreaded due date when we had to drive into town to return the book, and who knew what germs were hidden in that Ludlum plot from a previous reader's sneeze. But eventually, she acquiesced. Sometimes I do win an argument with Management.

Actually, there was a time when she had no choice but to use a library.  During 1986-87, we lived in Monteverde, a remote village in the Tilaran Mountains of Costa Rica mostly inhabited by American Quakers.  Quakers hold education in high esteem, so they had a nice little library there.  There was absolutely no place within a 4-hour drive to buy a book that was worthy of my wife's attention.  The library was within walking distance of the farm house we were renting, so she spent a great deal of time there.  In addition, the house we rented was owned by the family of a former law professor from George Washington University, and it contained a very nice collection of books.  After my wife had read everything of a fictional nature in that house, she started gobbling up the novels in the Monteverde library.  At the end of that year, I noticed that she had not been reading for a couple of weeks.  When I asked her about visiting our local repository of novels to resupply, she quipped, "I've done that library."

So we returned to the states, and to the plethora of large public libraries and bookstores that abound.  Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring!  Heaven on earth!  Hosanna in the highest!  Out of the wilderness we have come, into the light of a Barnes and Noble, of libraries on wheels, of more ISBN numbers than one can fathom, and into the country that boasts The Library of Congress with 33 million cataloged books.  I would soon become a book widower again.

Finally, back at home, I kissed my wife goodbye, dropped her off at the Ithaca library, and reminded her that we have an anniversary coming up in eight months.  Could she spend some time with me on that important date?  It wouldn't have to be all day, just a few hours in the evening for dinner or a movie?  She wondered if it was OK if we went to a restaurant that was well-lighted, and not too noisy, a place suitable for some light reading?  I suppose the waiter could put another candle on the table.  Maybe he could also turn down the romantic mood music they usually play there.  We could order ahead so that the hostess would not have to interrupt us very much with questions about entrees and dessert.  When the big night came, everything came off without a hitch, even though my wife's book bag knocked over a glass of cabernet sitting in front of me.  Small price to pay for some quality time alone with the woman I love.

At present, my wife is working her way through the tiny library in Danby, where we live.  This should take only a few weeks.  But you know, the irony of all this is that I published a digital book in April, and my wife has yet to read it.  What's up with that?  I'll bet if I used the pen name "Daniel Silva" or "Jeffery Deaver", she would have devoured my book while the ink was still wet, so to speak.  But I'm not complaining.  After all, if I need to know something about international spies, or fingerprint analysis, or explosives used by terrorists, all I do is ask.  I rarely use Google anymore.