Sunday, June 29, 2014

All Booked Up

I thought everything was fine until I threw my book into the freezer and discovered that I had stepped into a steaming pile of tsundoku.

Perhaps I should explain.

On the way home from the gym yesterday, I passed a table covered with used books that had been set up outside a local secondhand store.

Keep walking, I told myself, you’ve got books at home that you’ll never read.

This is painfully true. There are stacks of used books all over my computer room and boxes of them in my closets.

Hell will freeze over and Satan himself will be handing out ice cream sodas before I ever get to them all, but I can’t seem to part with any of them.

Knowing this, you’d think I would’ve kept going yesterday, but I couldn’t resist. I’m always amazed at the excellent books I find for a fraction of their original price.

I came across my all time favorite novel, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes A Great Notion, at a secondhand store more than 25 years ago, and that book has stayed with me ever since.

Kesey's writing is so powerful it’s like a creative writing course you can hold in your hands—and it only cost me 50 cents. So ever since then I’m constantly on the lookout for another great literary find.

I did a quick review of the books on the table, decided there was nothing there for me, and turned to leave.

And that’s when I saw Strivers Row.

This is the third in a series of connected books by Kevin Baker, the author two fantastic historical novels, Dreamland and Paradise Alley.

Published in 2007, Strivers Row reimagines the early days of Malcolm Little, who would later become Malcolm X. I had heard that this novel did not stack up to the two earlier works, but I wanted to complete the series.

When are you going to read this? My cranky old conscience demanded. You’ve got tons of novels and God only knows how many freaking self-help books to plough through. You can barely get through the Times every day.

Still, I didn’t want to leave the trilogy hanging. The book was only a buck and I promised myself I would leave it in the cafeteria at work for my coworkers to read the second I finished it.

My Back Pages

Now the only problem with second hand items, books included, is that you can have unwanted guests coming home with you in the form of horrible little insects.

I’ve heard that putting a book in the freezer overnight is the best way to exterminate these little bastards, so Strivers Row got the Big Chill treatment the minute I got home.

With that out of the way, I decided to check my emails and saw that I had not yet read Rob Brezny’s Astrology Newsletter, which had come in day three days earlier.

This was unusual, as I always read Brezny’s weekly horoscopes the minute they come over my digital transom.

I won’t and say I believe the stars are controlling my life; I just like to cover all possibilities. And I enjoy Brezny’s positive attitude and fine writing style.

Then I started reading.

The Japanese word ‘tsundoku” describes what happens if you buy a lot of books but never read them, leaving them piled up in a neglected heap,” my horoscope read. “I recommend that you avoid indulging in ‘tsundoku’ any time soon, Gemini.

In fact, my horoscope urged me not to indulge in any kind of tsundoku for the immediate future.

You are in a phase of your cycle when it's crucial to make conscientious use of your tools and riches. To let them go to waste would be to dishonor them, and make it less likely that you will continue to receive their blessings in the future.

Oh, great. I had just unwittingly given the Zodiac the finger.

I’ve got clothes I haven’t looked at in years, a DVR about to bust like a piƱata with unwatched movies, and a Netflix list that has reached critical mass.

I’m tsundoku-ed up to my eyeballs.

But I didn’t intentionally ignore my horoscope. I just kind of neglected it. Is astrological ignorance a legitimate defense?

The issue got even more star-crossed today when my sister stopped by to drop off some birthday gifts from my niece, Victoria, and my sister-in-law, Amy.

Opening up the package I found a little gnome statue, which means my niece has not forgotten her vow to make me pose for a photo in a gnome hat when I visit her in Colorado.

One of the gnome’s legs was broken—thank you, Post Office—but I glued it back into place and now the gnome is as good as gnew.

There was also a felt pen with the head of a lion—hand woven in Nepal, according to the label.
And-Holy Tsundoku--another book!

But this wasn’t just any book. This was a little item called How to be Happy, Dammit! A Cynic’s Guide to Spiritual Happiness.

Now the crazy thing is that I once owned this very book—for about two hours.

I had won it at a friend’s holiday party about five years ago. But I left it at the friend’s apartment and then we lost contact, so I never got my book, dammit!

So now it’s back in my life. Surely this kind of crazy karma packs enough goodwill to overrule any brand of tsundoku.

Let us hope so. I’m going to move How to Be Happy, Dammit! to the top of my reading list with Strivers Row in the number two slot.

I’m also going to work on giving away my old clothes, slow down my DVR-ing and strive to keep the Netflix list in check.

And when my horoscope comes in, I’ll make sure it’s the first thing I read.


Ron said...

Rob, and yet another cleverly written post!

"I thought everything was fine until I threw my book into the freezer and discovered that I had stepped into a steaming pile of tsundoku."

Loved that opening line!

And listen, I don't blame you for picking up that book (Strivers Row) because it's sounds so interesting about Malcom X. And for the price, who could turn it down? A buck!

You also have me very curious about that book "How Happy Dammit..." because I love cynical-type books. You have to let me know how you liked it.

And hey, I clicked over on Rob Brezny's Astrology website and read my own horoscope. WOW...very interesting and accurate because what he said pertains to what I've been feeling lately.

Have a super week, buddy!

P.S. Love the picture of the gnome statue your niece sent you. Yup...he looks good as gnew!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, what's up?

Isn't Brezny fabulous? I look forward to his weekly newsletter and that's why it's so strange that I missed it this week.

As for Strivers Row, I figured one more book wouldn't kill me. The problem is I say that every time I buy a new book!

Have a great week, buddy, and take care!

Bijoux said...

Used book sales are fabulous, but now I'm freaked out about the bug thing! I never thought about it!

I think you should ignore the zodiac warnings and enjoy the good fortune of finding and receiving.

CrystalChick said...

Oh, how I love books and can never resist looking at a table of used ones either!! And, I practically live in the discount section of a local Barnes & Noble. They may be a bit more expensive, maybe $4-$6, but still a bargain for a hardcover. Even though we donated hundreds of books within the last couple years, I still have bookcases full of them... most I've read but wanted to save for one reason or another. And I have a pretty good stack of ones waiting to be read. I'm not totally loving the one I'm reading right now... didn't know it was going to be about zombies... but will stick with it a bit longer.

LOVE Rob Brezsny's 'scopes!!! And how strange that I didn't read my last one either ... until just now.

Rob K said...

Hey, Mary, glad to see I'm not the only book nut!

I don't usually read about zombies since I work with them--Rim Shot!

But I find it tough to bail on a book, unless I really hate it.

And I'm so glad you're a Brezny fan. I love his horoscopes! Just don't forget to read them.

Take care!

Rob K said...

@Hey, Bijoux!

Didn't mean to freak you out on the bug business.

I'm probably being too cautious, but I figure a night in the deep freeze should take care of any uninvited house guests!

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Oh Rob the worrier in me is now wondering what Horoscopes I have ignored. Should I be subscribing to a list? I might have to go do that now...thanks for the worry my friend ;)

Rob K said...

Hey, Shae, no worries! If you're not doing the horoscope thing, it's no time to start. Enjoy life and let the stars take care of themselves!

Take care

v said...

didn't know that little tidbit about freezing books to avoid bring home live bugs. i'm grossed out and impressed at the same time.

i have books i need to read, especially ebooks, but if i find another one at a great price i want to read, i have to buy it. i love books and want to read more.

how to be happy dammit. hmmm, let us know how that goes. do you think we have the power to be happy if we WANT to or is it an conscious effort?

Rob K said...

Hey, Val!

Yes, well, that little tidbit might be closer to urban legend, but I don't risk being wrong on this one.

You're a book-a-holic, too, eh? I haven't gone the ebook route yet, but someday I might cave.

Great question about happiness. You have to want it and you have to work at it.

Some people are just naturally happy, and God bless them, but for me it's a major effort.

Take care.

Stephanie Faris said...

Bugs? In books? I've never even thought about that before. A new thing to worry about! I get most of my books on Kindle now, so I guess that isn't going to happen with me. At least I hope it won't...

Rob K said...

That's what I hear, Stephanie, that's what I hear. You should be safe with the Kindle, unless it's a different kind of bug....

Rob K said...
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