I imagine that I’m not the only one that carries around up to half a dozen books with them everywhere they go, at all times. I really hate having any kind of down time with nothing to read. Doctor’s office, in line at Walgreens, on my way to sell books at the Strand, less exciting moments in foreign movies I’m watching, or for when my lady friend is watching Top Chef. Whatever. One of the few I was lugging along on the train today—Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (which is pretty great so far, fyi)—had an interesting passage that got me to thinking about the previously unconsidered victims of my solipsistic and obsessive habits.
“You must have brought something. Books? I never saw you without a green bag of books.” To her mother she says, “He reads everywhere—in the subway, between the acts at plays, at intermissions in Symphony Hall, on picnics, on dates.”
This speech conveys considerable information to Aunt Emily. She watches Sid’s eyes close in mock agony, while a really very engaging smile takes over from the sheepishness on his face. “Well, there’s so much to read, and I’m so far behind. Everybody’s read ten times more than I have.”
“What did you bring?” Charity asks. “Restoration dramas?”
“I’m taking a rest from those. I’ve just got some hole-fillers. Middlemarch, The Idiot, things like that, novels I should have read but haven’t.”
When is it okay to bring along books, and when is it not? Dinner parties? The bar? Bar Mitzvahs? Sporting events? Sporting events where your team sucks and them losing is a foregone conclusion but you still want to tacitly show your admittedly wavering support? Please advise.