Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Pushers

Does anyone else remember that Steppenwolf song “Goddamn the Pusher?” It was on Steppenwolf Live and was the reason my older sisters would shoo Ian and me out of the room when they listened to that album with their friends, because it had that “bad word.” Now that I’m older and am allowed to read, hear, and even say (although not around parishioners, of course) such words, I’m beginning to empathize with those lyrics just a teensy, tiny, little bit. You see, I am (and always have been) completely surrounded by pushers. I can’t join a twelve-step program, because I’d have to go live on a desert island with no online access in order to get away from them. In fact, I happen to be living with my #1 pusher (who sometimes, if truth be told, gets a little annoyed that I do so much business with others). I also happen to have grown up with five pushers.

Bob and my family members aren't the only ones, though (we’ll get back to them in a minute). Let me introduce you to some of my current pushers. First of all, there’s Becky. She’s the one who tempted me with Stephanie Meyers’s Twilight. She’s also the one who told me about Slightly Foxed, an entire catalog of various sorts of highs. (I was suffering severe withdrawal from that until just the other day, because the effects of the spring issue were beginning to wear off, and my summer issue had not yet arrived). And she introduced me to Persephone Books, the Dom Perignon of publishers. One recent morning, my cell phone trilled with an odd sound that is still unfamiliar, because I get so few text messages (Becky is a dear friend, who knows I hate to talk on the phone, and is very patient with my Luddite skills when it comes to texting. She texts me and patiently waits an hour for my three-word, misspelled reply). I picked up the phone and read “You must read Caitlin Kiernan. Southern, gothic, urban fantasy, spooky. Becky.”

She might as well have just stuck the joint in my mouth and lit it for me. I’m surprised she wasn’t afraid I’d drive up to Connecticut and steal her stash. I mean, if you know anything about me at all, you know I’m not about to resist such a tantalizing high. I did decide to do a little research before “just saying yes,” though. I went online to see what our library had and discovered Kiernan’s a YA author (a.k.a. “gateway drug”). A trip to the library was immediately planned, where the only Caitlin Kiernan on the shelf was Threshold, which was fine, one of her earlier novels, so I grabbed it before it could go missing (like two of the others that were supposed to be there) right before my eyes. And there I was, in the YA section, with all that temptation, and harder stuff just one staircase below…

Five books later, I was home. Around 11:00 p.m., I put down The Book of Lost Things (those of you who’ve read it know that’s a feat comparable to climbing Mt. Everest barefoot) to make sure all the lights were out and that Francis’s litter box was clean before going to bed. I forgot to bring it upstairs with me, and I can’t go to sleep without taking at least a couple of hits in bed before turning out the light. No problem, though, I figured. It was late. I’d just take a couple of hits off of Threshold instead, which was upstairs, to see how it felt. This would probably be a good idea. It always takes me more than that really to feel the effects of anything, and I was dying for some more The Book of Lost Things, which was guaranteed to wire me and keep me up too late. Well, 1:00 a.m. rolls around, and I’m off in the guest bedroom, completely wired on this new high, hiding from Bob who never even knew I’d slipped away to be alone with my secret addiction. I'm completely engrossed in Chance Matthews‘s bizarre life, already thinking “This is going to end too soon. I must get more.”

Then there’s my friend who shortly after this little binge of mine, sent me an email that said, among other things, “…I nearly died last night, trying to eat dinner while reading Sedaris's latest. I was choking and spitting up food all over the place. I couldn't breathe.” This is the friend, who when I once mentioned that I loved Me Talk Pretty One Day (pushed on me by my sister Forsyth), decided one snort just wasn’t enough and showed up the next day with a whole kilo (his entire Sedaris collection). That was very early in his career as my pusher, but let me just say, on more than one occasion, he’s been known just to give away really good shit to me. Without my even asking for it. I’m talking shit not laced with anything undesirable, here. And the way he overindulged me with Sedaris is his standard way of doing business. If I say I'd like to try some Ross Macdonald, I get everything Ross Macdonald ever wrote, plus a biography, plus some literary criticism. (Everyone needs a friend like this, huh?)

Anyway, next thing I know, I’m in the Border’s parking lot pulling When You Are Engulfed in Flames out of its brown paper bag. It’s about 110 degrees in the car on this sunny summer day, but I’m not about to wait till I get all the way home before trying it. I’m risking heat stroke here, as I open it and that familiar uncontrollable laughter begins to overtake me. I don’t want to get a DWI, though, so I slip it back in the bag, along with a couple of others (probably inferior, but they’ll do one day when I’m desperate, I’m sure) I picked up from the sale table while there.

If you’ve ever read Of Books and Bikes, I don’t need to tell you what a pusher Dorr is. I’ve decided she can’t write about her latest trip, even if it’s been a bad one, without my jonesing for some of what she’s just had. When we get together, she often arrives with something to share. On her recent visit, she knew exactly what to bring. I didn’t even have to ask: Rosy Thornton’s Hearts and Minds, which is near-impossible to get in this country. Then, while here, she took her share of Anne of Green Gables, and then left it with me, when I said I’d managed to go from childhood to adulthood without any wandering at all through that particular gateway.

Dorr, of course, is not the only Blogland pusher. You all know who you are. I log onto your sites with half anticipation/half dread. I’m hoping you won’t show up with some good stuff, hoping that today we’re just going to drink lemonade and talk about our shared insecurities or something. Then, you show up with nothing to push, and I’m pissed. I mean, I’m counting on you for something more than a lemonade-sugar buzz.

It’s like getting together with my family members. If they come here, rather than my going to visit any of them, then I know I won’t be arriving home with at least four books in my bag. However, why shouldn’t I have the joy of arriving home with four books in my bag? Trips to my parents’ house are heavenly these days, because I’m pretty much guaranteed to arrive home with a box of books, since my mother is trying to get rid of things (everything that is, except what’s in the sacred bookcase where the Georgette Heyers, Agatha Christies, and Margery Allinghams live. Somehow, my sister Lindsay knows the secret of taking a swig or two of those and putting the bottle back on the shelf, my mother none the wiser, but I always seem to get caught when I try it). Oh, and then there’s the mandatory trip to the nearest bookstore we all have to take whenever we’re together.

Probably my worst pusher, though, is Bob, who is really into the hard stuff. I’ll mention to him that I’m so enjoying Sophie’s World, and the next thing I know, he’s pulling his collection of the Dialogues of Plato off the shelf and advising me what to read first. I’m terrified of James Joyce, sure something like Ulysses will be the death of me. People will find me in a back alley somewhere, a spine-cracked copy of the book obviously having slipped from my cold, dead hand. Bob’s been pushing Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man on me for years, trying to convince me I’ll like it, telling me it’s nothing like Ulysses (sure, and heroin is nothing like angel dust). I should have known from the moment I met him, since that’s when he was pushing Anna Karenina on me, that life with this man who’s actually read Euclid would be this way. Euclid sits on a shelf in the room we call the study, tempting me when I’m trying to work or write, because for some inexplicable reason, of all the hard stuff, I am most drawn to Euclid.

I’m not too worried, though, really. As the saying goes, “with friends like these…” I figure no one I know is ever going to force me into rehab. I’m free to enjoy my little addiction as long and as much as I like. After all, if I happen to walk into my living room one day to find all my friends and family members gathered together for an intervention, I’ll have one simple phrase for them, “Enablers. All of you.”


Charlotte said...

Oh, I know those pushers. I share some of them, and then have some of my mine. They keep me addicted, but if I am honest, I would do it alone if necessary.

Great post, Emily!

Eva said...

This was so much fun to read. :)

Eva said...

Forgot to add, I think you're one of my pushers! Whenever you tell me to read/buy a book, I go out and do it immediately!

Rebecca H. said...

As I hinted at in my recent post, you're not exactly an innocent yourself, Emily ... I've had some very nice trips because of you :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm with Dorothy, you aren't exactly innocent :)

And listen to Bob, give Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man a try. It really is good and it gave me confidence that I might be able to actually read Ulysses one day.

Anonymous said...

That's some good sh*t there, Emily. Moonshine's got nothing on you. I can happily say I'm immnune to Euclid, having grown up with a classics-mad father. He can just start talking in that direction and my eyes will start glazing over. James Joyce on the other hand ...

Yogamum said...

I just bought the David Sedaris via Amazon right after I read this!! Bloggers are my biggest pushers -- it's just too easy to hop over to One Click when I read about an interesting book!!

Have you read Meyer's "The Host" yet? I got completely sucked into it!

Emily Barton said...

Hmmm...what's the word I want? Projection, is it? I stand humbly accused and plead guilty.

Charlotte, I must say, I'd do it on my own, too.

Eva, glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to write, too.

Dorr, that's payback, I guess.

Stef, I think with Bob and you, and now I'm under the influence of Allison Bechdel (more on that to come). This just might be the year for _Portrait..._.

Pete, maybe I need to visit your father to discourage this interest of mine, but I'm afraid he might turn into a new pusher. Meanwhile, see my response to Stef.

Yogamum, enjoy the Sedaris! I haven't read _The Host_ yet, but I'm sure I'll get to it soon.