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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bookmark Now, Writing in Unreaderly Times

Hooray for essays, essays with an editor, a publisher and ones that you can cart around with you as you stroll around.  Essays that make you think, feel and most of all essays that make you want to write.

This book was actually an odd lot that I picked up at the local surplus house, Building 19.   Building 19 is hard to describe.  It's like a huge collection of goods from container ships that other businesses never bothered to pick up.  It's the type of place where you can find everything you never wanted and nothing you need but just going in to see what's on the shelves this week is worth the trip.   So far my favorite trip was the one with bins full of prison surplus.  I mean they had the whole deal, jumpsuits, shoes, jeans, they only thing missing was a burly, surly cellmate and a guard who would beat you for using too much toilet paper.   I imagined just for fun that I could spend a day cleaning up trash in the park in prison wear but since I have kids now I can't do crazy embarrassing stuff without it possibly affecting them.

All the prison wear is gone now but I do have to imagine who bought it.  Is there a group of nursing home shut ins that is forced to wear it?  I imagine that there are a slew of good New Englanders who are spicing up their marriages with prison fantasy play?  Whatever happened to it all on my next trip it was replaced by a boatload of plastic dishes for a quarter and stacks of Bookmark Now.

Now you can see why I thought this would be a low light of my reading this year, a book that competes for your dollar with 4 plastic cups or plates shouldn't be any good but I just can't pass up anything bound that's cheaper than a newspaper.  That's another reason I love essay collections.  You can always stop after one or two.  It's a low commitment affair and you can stop at any time and move on.  When the essay collection costs you a dollar it's a low risk gamble that paid off this time.  Bookmark now is the royal flush of finds in the poker game of 4 acre discount barns.

Bookmark now is about books and writing.  It's an examination of how we relate to the printed word in our times, what we've lost, what we've gained and philosophy on where we should go next.  I love reading writers who riff on writing, the only comparable stories are written by ex junkies about their drug of choice.  It's even better perhaps because writers never reform.  The worse their life gets, the more solitary and abused they are because of their self indulgent needs the better they get at what they're doing and the more we love what they pour onto their page.

That's right baby, spoken word artists, bloggers, short story MFA prodigies, humorists.  They all get their fix on in this book and tell you what they love about what they do.   Literature isn't dead man, you just need to turn on tune in (to a podcast) and drop out for a while.  It's still there and it's going to be there.  Someday people will feel about books like you and I feel about cuneiform tablets, but we'll still love to spend our solitary time with the printed word.

I highly recommend this book. It's long gone from the discount store, I know because I looked, but if you ever run into it in the library or in a friends e-reader,  just give it a try.  It may start out low commitment but it's so well worth staying for the long run.

So drop me a line, what are you reading and what should I be reading?  I'd love to jam with you a bit about written self expression.