Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Full Blown Gentle Madness

So I get an email from letting me know that they have shipped both the hardback and the three-volume paperback edition of 2666. This message comes on Saturday. I figure that my books should arrive by Wednesday, one day after they hit stores. I prepare by clearing some space in my backpack and finishing some books (most notably Sin by Farough Farrokhzad, which is an excellent collection of poems that anyone interested in poetry should check out. People compare the late Iranian to Plath, which I understand, though I lament the need to understand something only in relation to something else, especially when it deals with a foreign writer being digested by English readers, as it speaks to a sort of inability on our part to approach something or someone “exotic,” much the way we might balk at the idea of unfamiliar cuisine).

Of course I was hoping the books would arrive on Tuesday. They didn’t. It had nothing to do with the holiday and the mailpersons having the day off. Other people at the office got their Amazon packages. (My boss got a book about The Clash, one of my favorite bands but one, like The Ramones, that I’m getting tired of hearing about). I didn’t get mine. Fine. I spent Tuesday night reading some of the poems of Ernesto Cardenal (incredible at times, especially “Epigrams”) and let the expectations swell about what would arrive the next day.

Wednesday came. No books. Worse—a big package from Amazon arrived and was waiting for me on my desk. It seemed big enough to house two 900-page books. I was incredibly busy and couldn’t tear the box open at that moment, but I was relieved, wrongly, and finished my tasks planning the evening ahead (make dinner, make tea, sit with mi niña and read Bolaño). And then it gets to be after 4:00, close to 5:00, and I notice the goddamn box is addressed to the one person at my job who annoys me more than just about anyone else on the planet— at least as much as Anne Coulter or Gwyneth Paltrow or Sean Hannity or Katy Perry or the Rev. Phelps or Michael Moore or Sarah Palin.

I leave work with every intention of going directly home. Somehow I end up at Borders. I find the book, no sweat. I pick it up. It’s beautiful, wrapped in plastic and weighty and promising. I don’t look at the hardback—I still want some surprise to come in the mail, something to look forward to. I buy the book. It comes to the same price as it did on Amazon if you include the shipping cost. I tell myself that I’ll return the three-volume set when it comes in the mail and keep the one I just bought from the store, tearing the plastic off and beginning to read volume one on the train, balancing the other two volumes on my lap and keeping the first elevated at eye level so as not to compromise the flawless slip case by resting my hands on the delicate cardboard.

I read the first twenty-five pages before bed and am convinced I did the right thing by succumbing to impatience and my book collecting sickness. I’m twenty-five pages ahead of where I’d be if I had waited just one more day (and who’s to say the package will arrive today?). As of this morning, I am thirty-five pages ahead. Who knows how far I’ll be by the time the Amazon arrives?

Of course there is a part of me that thinks I might keep the duplicate three-volume set that I ordered online. The money is already spent—I won’t miss it. I’ll eat peanut butter for a few days if I have to (but I won’t). I can keep the books in plastic, keep them as a collector’s item along with the hardback (which I won’t crack open except to look at the author photo) and treat the store bought set as my reading copy. Yes, that means I would own three copies of the book: one hardback and two paperback three-volume sets. I am mad, I know I am mad…