You may remember Lyndsay Wheble from her website, Tolstoy is my Cat – or perhaps even from the interview I did with her last week as part of my book blogger series. Today she has written a guest post on a subject close to my heart, and possibly yours too – an addiction to books.
Today, I bought four books when I meant to buy one.
This is not an unusual occurrence.
Wandering in my local Waterstones, killing a little time before a friend arrived on a train, I saw a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer with an orange ‘Buy One Get One Half Price’ sticker in the top left corner (I knew Waterstones would bring back the multi-buys). I’ve heard the film is appalling but that Safran Foer is someone I should know, so thought ‘book over film’ and placed it in my basket. Also, I’ve always enjoyed ‘Jewish’ writing, particularly since finding out that my grandmother’s grandparents conveniently slipped out of Germany to the UK, quietly anglicising their surname from ‘Deutsch’ to ‘Doidge’. Also, it’s usually funny as hell.
It’s good to support a bookstore chain in actual monetary terms, I think, although I then worry that I should be buying in an independent book store instead, or borrowing from the library to keep that going too. Which is most relevant? This book is in my basket now though, and besides, I used to work in this store. Inevitably though, as soon as I go back on Twitter, someone will be ranting about how I’ve just backed the wrong campaign.
A stack of other books on the ‘Half Price’ offer were distributed across a number of tables in the centre of the store, all with orange sticker artfully winking in full view. There were some books I’d read, some books I wouldn’t, amongst them. Does this make me a chick-lit snob? The books seemed to think so, making hurt eyes at me as I passed them on the way to something more substantial. I skipped the crime table entirely – nightmares ahoy, although I agree that horror trends mirror society’s concerns and shouldn’t be dismissed as genre.
I then deigned to read the back of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, thinking simultaneously that I should have read something of his by now and that he was probably over-hyped. A short, tragic life does tend to result in eulogising hysteria, whether the writing is good or just average. His book sat beside paperback versions of Jonathan Franzen two heavy-weight tomes, buddies in life as well as in bookstores, and I turned from them with my nose in the air. Who wants to spend time in the company of a writer who hates so much? Looking at them together, I felt affronted by the ‘Great American Boy’s Club’: I could practically see the books puffing out their chests with liberal self-importance. Franzen stayed on the table, as did Foster Wallace.
I moved into the general ‘Fiction’ area and picked up Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun without much thought. I’m on a slight slim-book riff at the moment, most likely as a consequence of reading too much bicentennial Dickens, and this was the slimmest of the books of Murakami’s that I’ve not yet read. I also always feel so cool with a Murakami book in my hand. Looking at my choices, I saw no women and felt an pressing, compelling need to remedy this – the support of the sisterhood being an absolute must – so Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing was then in my basket, primarily of a consequence of a half-remembered remark in some writing study material I had somewhere, which presented Surfacing as a superlative example of present tense narration, and I had yet to read more than that given paragraph a good while ago. Also, she’s a doyenne, and I imagine reading this book will be like sitting with an older female English teacher, being told kindly yet firmly where I’ve recently been going wrong.
Three books, but no second offer sticker, so I picked up The Pale King without looking at either it, or Franzen, on my way to the till point. If I bought three and didn’t use the offer = wastage. If I buy four, but save half the price of one book = win. Four books, no waiting. I admit it’s strange, but what can I say, I’m a marketer’s dream. The book I actually went into Waterstones to buy was Middlemarch, but I felt more contemporary than the classics that day, and like I should be supporting mostly living writers, as I read article after article about how scratching a living as a writer is so hard. Not that these guys should be particularly worried, but still.
All of this took around seven minutes, and I got back to the station in time to meet my friend from her train, where I pulled out the books and laughed about the size of my TBR pile. I was also kind of proud though: I go through this process again and again, over-thinking it incessantly, picking up books and putting them down, but I guess there’s nothing that doesn’t feed into my book buying choices, and there’s nothing that feeds a person like buying good books! For the record, she agrees with me, and we returned to the store post-lunch.