Sitting at a bar in Oxford, Mississippi, I asked a man, “Would you fight for your life if you were one of the last people on earth?” Follow-up questions included: “What if you had one of our kids in tow?” and “If you didn’t have one of our kids in tow, what would you even be fighting for?”
To be fair, this man is my husband of lo, these past 25 years. So these were fair questions. (After 25 years, I figure anything is a fair question.) I’m not entirely sure I got satisfactory answers. I was competing with ESPN on about a half-dozen TVs.
A few days later, driving into a grocery store parking lot, he eyed a woman walking from her car toward the front entrance and asked, “What would you do if she were completely naked, pushing that cart?”
So we are always full of questions. And, occasionally, some sound answers. (As for the naked shopper, I like to think I would just let her go about her business. But we all know I would call 911.)
While I cannot determine the basis of the naked shopper question, my series of questions at the bar stemmed from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (cue the “Debbie Downer” jingle). It was but one in a long list of books that made up Amy’s Summer Reading List 2015. My formula was to read three books each week, alternating between fiction and non-fiction. And nothing was off limits. As The Grateful Dead would put it, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
Favorite Autobiography: So That Happened by Jon Cryer
Favorite Fiction: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Fastest Read: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Favorite Modern Classic: White Noise by Don Delillo
A Little Embarrassed To Be Seen Reading Poolside: Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying) by Bill Gifford (note: The nice folks at the library glued the non-removable book jacket upside down. I like to think that is the work of a librarian with a sense of humor.)
I opened with the Oxford, Mississippi story because Nick Hornby opens up Shakespeare Wrote for Money with an anecdote about Oxford, Mississippi. The “so what” here is that Hornby lives in North London, so we can all agree that he probably knows a good American literary spot when he visits one.
It wasn’t until last week that I read Hornby’s book, which is a compilation of his last round of columns for The Believer, and the formula for the column was pretty simple: “Books Bought/Books Read.” So there is a list, then there are explorations of those he read. If I believed in text talk at all, I would tell you that I LOL’d all over the place.
Yes, these are, at their core, book reviews, but don’t let that scare you. They read more like personal narratives. So very brilliant. Within one of his columns, he offers a pithy idea of a “book nutritionist” who tells people what to read. (The book is in another room, so I am working off memory here because I don’t feel like getting out of this chair.) It is almost a passing description, but it stuck in my brain for whatever reason and gave me all sorts of ideas that no one will ever follow through with, but here is one of them anyway.
Food nutritionists have forever recommended that we write down everything we eat in a given day. Such a practice reveals patterns and problems and can lead to some level of accountability. And shame. I propose taking Hornby’s fun little appellation a little further, borrow the advice from nutritional science, and encourage folks to write down everything they read in a day. If at the end of the day all you have recorded is “Facebook posts” and “street signs,” you may determine there is room in your life to read other material.
What would happen if we did this? How much lying would we engage in? How much cheating? Do Tweets count? How about al.com? What about Instagram captions? Who’s in charge here?
What a snotty little idea, you might be saying. Yeah, well, whatever. You’ve read this far, so put that in your reading log. You’re off to a good start.