28 July 2011

30 Days of Books: Day 23 - Why Bookstores Hurt

The entry for Day 23 got so long that I decided it should get this post all to itself.

Earlier posts in this meme: Days 1-7, Days 8-14, and Days 15-21. See you tomorrow.


Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

(28 July 2011) I'm between yearnings at the moment. I've either read or lost interest in unread books that interested me, and I haven't been interested in anything else lately.

I think I'm going through what Martin calls book fatigue, though my definition is probably different. I hear about something interesting--a series, comics, "serious" "literature," "fluff," science nonfiction--maybe see it on a bookstore shelf, read the blurb, think of the books that are like it, think of the books I already have, think of the books people will probably write in a similar vein, and then ask myself, "Well, what's the point of getting this one, then?"

I'm a bit worn down, too, by the feeling that I have to catch up with what everyone else is reading--ridiculous and bad for the self-esteem, but there it is--especially when film adaptations are forthcoming. It's similar to the feeling that I'm missing out by not having read all the "important" books that my language teachers' language teachers insisted one had to read to be considered cultured.

It's wonderful having access to all Manila's well-stocked bookstores today, and it's nice having a salary that would afford me several new books a month if I wanted. That's the thing, though; I don't want any, and that makes me sad. It's been about a year, I think, since I simply wandered into a bookstore, saw something interesting, and knew I just had to have it--that book was "The Arrival," by Shaun Tan--and I really miss that kind of obsession.

Part of me wants to go back to that point in my life when there were no decent stores for miles around. I would save my allowance for the occasional trip to Davao, where we would go into the only National Bookstore outlet in three or five surrounding provinces--how tiny that place looks now--and I would squat in front of the YA shelf for hours, agonizing over which would be the one book I'd get to take home. It often happened that I hadn't saved enough, so I'd have to wait until the next trip to Davao, during which I'd be hoping against hope that no one else had wanted that book while I was away.

If I couldn't buy books, I depended on rereading what I already had; on the school library, which was really good for a place so isolated; on friends like Mariel, who somehow always managed (and still does) to get her hands on good stuff--it was thanks to her that I read about Claidi and Harry Potter; and on birthday and Christmas gifts from people who knew how much I loved to read. I don't think my parents or grandparents know how much their gifts meant to me; I don't think I really did, either, until I was older.

Having grown up that way, that hungry, I felt a great rage, like a terrible injustice had been done to me as a child, when I walked into the new Fully Booked in my birthplace last year.

And knowing that I was once so starved for good things to read makes my current aversion to acquiring new books even more disturbing. Maybe I can make the highly dubious claim that today's books aren't as great. Maybe I've been letting others' literary chatter get to me, and I can no longer pick something without wondering whether people are talking about it on Twitter. Maybe I just got so stingy growing up that having thousands more choices today makes buying a new book even more difficult.

Yeah, I bet that's it. Books have entailed such huge personal (and not entirely financial) investment for so long that I'm afraid of making the wrong choice out of all possible choices--that's why the giant Fully Booked in Fort Bonifacio terrifies me. Even if my wallet can now afford it, my twelve-year-old heart still can't.

I guess until I get over that, I'll wait for something to seize me the way "The Arrival" did, piercing through all those layers of fear and getting to the little twerp who read because reading itself was awesome, and stories were just plain good.


All that said, I recently started reading George R. R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones," and I like it so far. That counts as something interesting I haven't read yet, right?

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