Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Know Shoes

For a while I had an active Goodreads account. A lot of people in school with me had accounts there and I thought, why not?

For a while there too I was reading The Log of the S. S. The Mrs Unguentine. I had an edition from Dalkey, a little blue-and-white thing, the kind of book you could haul anywhere and read with ease even though the covers would pull themselves closed if you weren't careful. Once, just after I moved to Florida, I took this book to a sandwich shop near my office and sat outside eating soup and tuna and trying to read. The novel is very quick and unique and strange--it features a sort-of estranged couple floating around in a converted barge--and was going well until somebody told me I'd had my shoes reheeled.

"Nah," I said.

"I know shoes," this guy said. He was old enough that you would expect he was right, he did know shoes. But he didn't know these.

"These came like this," I said.

"Then you can get them reheeled." He was sitting in a little metal chair just like mine. This sandwich shop was in a strip mall just off a road spotted with crosses and flowers and wrapped teddy bears left for all the pedestrians and bicyclists and motorists killed by Orlando's terrible drivers. The sound of traffic was everywhere. This guy said, "I'm unemployed now but sometimes I work for that test company. The ACTs. We grade the essays. " He talked some more. He looked like he might be making up the details but in fact they all were accurate, at least to a degree I was able to judge.

Then he talked to me about drugs and liquor. He had a little bottle of something wrapped not in a paper bag but in a plastic bag. He pulled on it and offered me some. He didn't have any food. I didn't know if he was asking for money or if we were having a real conversation.

Anyway: both these experiences came back to me this morning. Goodreads sent me the newsletter they always send out and which I've been too ambivalent to cancel, even though I never visit the site. I opened it up and saw a little personalized part near the top and I saw that it has been 690 days since I started reading The Log of the S. S. The Mrs Unguentine.

When I swam out of my existential and nostalgic whirlpool (690 days!), I decided that I could pick up the book again and finish it (I made it only close to the end, for reasons I can't even remember anymore). I can do that for almost any book I've ever started, no matter how long ago I last closed the pages. With movies and TV series and even with video games it's different, I'd have to start again after a certain amount of time has passed, but books stay fresh or at least preserved somehow in my brain. I imagine this is true for all of us. My guess is it's because we're so actively involved in reading--we have to interpret even the rhythm of the language, and determine how many pages we read before quitting for the night, and we have to color and build the scenes set, etc. Sometimes when I'm writing something up I wonder how someone else will imagine a particular character, or a particular car, or whatever. Often I'm not even sure how I imagine these things myself.

1 comment:

  1. That's why I like to listen to books on cd, with a good voice actor. I find that when I read the book myself, everyone sounds like an asshole. When someone reads the book to me, there are all these subtle nuances of meaning that I completely would have missed. Of course they are the interpretations of the actor, but they're better than my interpretations. Or at least they used to be. I'm reading a book right now, and it seems like I'm doing ok on my own. Maybe I learned a few things from the actors.