Friday, February 22, 2008

Still life

As I've begun to weed, inevitably covers are drawn back, pages are turned, and snippets are read. While this is mostly an act of instinct, a lack of self-control, it is, on the whole, useful to the decision process.

Some books I don't remember reading at all; I just remember liking them. What do I do with those books?

Take for example, the prologue from Tom Robbins's Stll Life With Woodpecker (a beat-up mass-market paperback):

If this typewriter can't do it, then fuck it, it can't be done.

This is the all-new Remington SL3, the machine that answers the question, "Which is harder, trying to read The Brothers Karamazov while listening to Stevie Wonder records or hunting for Easter eggs on a typewriter keyboard?" This is the cherry on top of the cowgirl. The burger served by the genius waitress. The Empress card.

I sense that the novel of my dreams is in the Remington SL3 — although it writes much faster than I can spell. And no matter that my typing finger was pinched last week by a giant land crab. This baby speaks electric Shakespeare at the slightest provocation and will rap out a page and a half if you just look at it hard.

"What are you looking for in a typewriter?" the salesman asked.

"Something more than words," I replied. "Crystals. I want to send my readers armloads of crystals, some of which are the colors of orchids and peonies, some of which pick up radio signals from a secret city that is half Paris and half Coney Island."

He recommended the Remington SL3.

My old typewriter was named Olivetti. I know an extraordinary juggler named Olivetti. No relation. There is, however, a similarity between juggling and composing on the typewriter. The trick is, when you spill something, make it look like part of the act.

I have in my cupboard, under lock and key, the last bottle of Anaiis Nin (green label) to be smuggled out of Punta del Visionario before the revolution. Tonight, I'll pull the cork. I'll inject ten cc. into a ripe lime, the way the natives do. I'll suck. And begin...

If this typewriter can't do it, I'll swear it can't be done

How do I discard a book that starts like that?


Bybee said...

The phrase "the cherry on top of the cowgirl" has stuck in my mind for years! I almost said it the other day when describing something sublime, then at the last minute I substituted "banana split" for "cowgirl". Not the same.

I read that book in college because a guy I had a crush on really liked Tom Robbins and this was my way of flirting.

Sorry you have to weed out. Grown up life sucks. I had to do it myself. Sigh.

Suzanne said...

We've decided to get rid of books, too. Since we're talking about 10,000 or so, we really had to agree upon the criteria.

Keep a book if:

(1) it was a gift from your spouse, friend or a relative you like;
(2) it isn't available in any e-format;
(3) it's a reference book but not a dated computer book;
(4) it's a children's book;
(5) it's vintage paperback;
(6) it's a hardcover or cloth antique book.

So far, those are the criteria that we have. Not a perfect system but it is helping.

If you can suggest more criteria, they'd be welcome!

stefanie said...

Wow. It would be hard to get rid of a book that starts like that. Good luck with the weeding.

iwonka said...

As far as I'm concerned, stop weeding! Convert your huge powder room into a mini library -- a few built-in floor to ceiling shelves would do just the trick. Or that cubby under the stairs where Helena's toys seem to migrate, imagine a little reading/book corner.

I weeded my books a few years ago, put them into boxes to be given away. But never got around to giving them away. When I was moving into my new place, I thought I'd just let them go, boxed and all. Then I made the mistake of opening a box... 3 guesses as to where those boxes and books are.