Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Dog Ate It

Why I have not read and am not posting on Chester Himes's Real Cool Killers for the CT mystery book club tonight:

1. The day I got the email that this was the book we'd be reading, I looked it up to discover it was a relatively short book. Something that even I, who reads at a glacial pace, could maybe read in about five hours, so I thought I had plenty of time to secure a copy.

2. I put in an ILL request at our local library. I did that when the Musings were visiting us, exactly one month ago today. You can't accuse me of not having done my research, though. I looked it up on Worldcat first. The book is available in multiple libraries all within an hour's drive of here. However, it must be traveling by Sloth Express. Maybe by Christmas the poor sloth will have arrived at the library with the book in its pack.

3. My alternate plan for securing a copy, once I realized the book wasn't coming, was to go to CT this week, borrow it off one of the other members of the club, read it today, and attend the discussion in person, something I've never done. But then Bob got sick.

4. Not to worry. On Thursday, Dalia (one of the other members of the group) informed me that the book is in a Library of America collection called Crime Novels (reason #2,697,001 to love Library of America). The downtown Lancaster library had a copy of this collection. There was still hope that I might be able to read and write about it before this evening.

5. Nick Hornby. He is probably going to get his own post here soon, but today, he just gets a brief mention. Some of my former colleagues sent me a little book stack earlier this week as a token of their appreciation for the work I'd done. In that stack was Hornby's Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, a book I've been wanting to read ever since someone mentioned it in a comment on my blog a couple of years ago. It's like reading Slightly Foxed (only better, because you know that every piece is going to be laugh-out-loud funny if you happen to appreciate Hornby's brand of humor, which I do). You may think that you can just sit down and read one or two of the essays and then put it down, but you can't. No. You can't do anything at all until you have read the entire thing in one sitting. Then, if you are me, while you're at the library picking up Crime Novels, you have to seek out The Polysyllabic Spree as well, because, you know, one night of that wasn't enough. (It's a good thing Hornby doesn't have a twelve-volume encyclopedic set of essays on the books he's bought and read each month. I'm afraid it really would kill me, as I probably wouldn't bother even to eat or drink while plowing my way through it).

6. John Updike. I've become interested in John Updike lately, due to my friend Bob's love of him, as well as Hobs and Litlove. Bob recently posted one of Updike's poems on his blog, which I thought was terrific, and then Courtney mentioned his poetry in the latest issue of The New Yorker, so while at the library, I also picked up his poetry collection Americana: And Other Poems. I thought I'd just read one or two poems to see what I thought and then get down to the business of reading Real Cool Killers. (See Hornby above.) So, there went Thursday evening and night, spent with Updike and Hornby. No time for Himes.

7. Getting an oil change in the car. This should take about an hour, no? Sitting in the waiting room should be a great time to get through a good chunk of Real Cool Killers, right? Even if Tyra Banks is blaring from the television screen in the waiting room, going on about turning ordinary Josephinas into glam models. That, I could ignore. However, I could not ignore the fact that I am a magnet for sweet elderly people who want to tell me their life stories. Did I tell you that the garage's owner has a 90-year-old father who comes to work with him on Wednesdays and Fridays? It was Friday. Anything you'd like to know about that 90-year-old man, I'm sure I could tell you. However, I can't tell you too much about Real Cool Killers.

8. Once back from the oil change, a good chunk of yesterday just had to be spent writing that piece that purged my system. It doesn't normally take me very long to write a blog post, but that one did and was draining.

9. Bob woke up and wanted to play The Farming Game, which is this incredibly cool board game he got me for my birthday. I am not one to turn down someone who wants to play any board game with me, but especially this one. And I certainly was not going to turn Bob down when last week at this time I never would have believed he'd be up for sitting up for a few hours and concentrating on farming strategies.

10. The kitchen. Bob is also feeling well enough to eat now, which means I have someone who enjoys my cooking to cook for again. Thus, I can go back to doing things like making scrumptious garlicky pasta with capers and artichoke hearts. I can experiment with vegan pancake recipes (you know, in case of the highly unlikely event that I ever become a vegan) and see what happens if I turn them into banana chocolate almond vegan pancakes (what happens is that you decide you could eat these every. single. day. But you'd better not. In fact, you'd better stop doing things like eating cake for breakfast, too, as summer/bathing suit season is right around the corner).

Good enough excuses? I think so. Meanwhile, I will read the book and post on it, just not by this evening. I have started it. One thing I can tell you is: comfort reading it ain't. Not when within the first few pages you have a man's arm that has just been cut off with an ax go flying across a Harlem joint. Despite that, though, I can already tell I'm going to get into this gritty, edgy book, and I'm sure it will make for an interesting discussion, especially when it comes to comparing/contrasting it to others we've read for the club.


Anne Camille said...

Best excuses for not reading a book club book I've heard in awhile. Mine are usually much less inventive.

BTW: Chocalate is vegan? Doesn't it have milk in it? My son told me that I can't say that I'm following a no-meat diet since I have been eating fish, eggs, cheese & milk. He says I am abstaining from devouring the flesh of land-based animals. I think it is unlikely that I will ever become vegan, but I may continue with the no-meat diet after Easter. It's been a learning experience (inspired by you & Bob). Just shoot me, though, if I ever say that I'm a "pescatarian", a pretentious label if ever I heard one.

Glad to hear that Bob is feeling better.

Emily Barton said...

Cam, oh yes, there are lots of varieties of dark and very dark chocolate available that don't have milk in them. For my pancakes, I cut up chunks from a bar of Rapunzel's (organic, Swiss) dark chocolate with almonds. And glad Bob and I were an inspiration to you this Lent (although I have to tell you that when Bob first wanted something more to eat the other day, what he craved was a cheese burger, and well, that's what he got. He also got chili leftover from feeding the needy in our community that our parishioners felt he ought to have. Lenten pledges, obviously, goes out the window when the body needs to gain back its strength).

Anonymous said...

Well, you're not missing much. I found it to be painfully badly written. Not a bad story, but simply gag-inducing, godawful prose. Amateur. Wince worthy. Pound your head against the door terrible.

Susan said...

Love the excuses! 90 year old man stories vs reading for book club :-D and *Nick* , of course, who I just read Polysyllabic Spree also - still trying to figure out my post about it. The best is that the library never got it in on time! I'll have to remember that one....yum to substituting chocolate, the recipe sounds delicious! then again, almost anything with chocolate does.

Emily Barton said...

Hobs, as I get further into it, I am absolutely beginning to see what you mean...

Susan, oh, can't wait to read your post on Polysyllabic Spree. He's just hilarious, isn't he? (I hadn't really forgotten that, because I still remember being doubled over with laughter reading High Fidelity, but reading him now reminded me of the fact). And, yep, you can't really go wrong with a recipe that includes chocolate, can you?

Stefanie said...

Best excuses for not reading ever, especially the vegan pancakes. My husband makes a couple of varieties and his chocolate chip peanut butter ones I could definitely eat everyday!

Rebecca H. said...

I may never get around to writing about this book, unfortunately. But I'm not sure I have much to say. I don't think it's terribly written, but mostly I just enjoyed the story and was interested by the portrayal of race, but beyond that have little to say about it. Oh, well -- it happens, right?

Emily Barton said...

Stef, oooo, chocolate chip peanut butter. I think I'll have to try that next...

Dorr, yep, that most definitely happens!