The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apparently Books Are My Scrapbooks

I just finished Kathleen Norris' Acedia & me--a book that has taken me a year to read. That fact alone is not unusual. I am prone to stops and starts with reading, picking up a book and reading a few chapters before I set it down to pick up another. My "currently reading" list is so long it is laughable. And a tiny bit sad.

This book was unusual in that it took me so long to finish it not because I got distracted but because it was so incredibly good. I literally could only read about ten pages; then I would have to stop and think about the implications of what I'd just read . . . for about a week. I've read other books by this author, but this one, I think, by far is her most affecting.

So today, I finished it. In a hurry, spurred by a friend's also currently reading it (and he really is, not in the "it takes me a year to read a book because I am a shameless book polygamist" way that I do) and we want to be able to talk about it by the time he comes up to visit me next week. When I finish a book that has taken me a long while to read, it is always fun to look through it and see the detritus that has accumulated between its pages over time (oh, that's where that $100 bill is) because I tend to write or slip whatever is going on at the moment between the pages. This practice can have embarrassing side effects when I lend out books (for example, I once lent out a book that included an list I made on an index card that had "vagina presentation" in it), and I now usually look through my books when I finish them to remove anything that is too personal or if it can't be removed, mark them "do not lend out." In this book I found:

disciplinary notes from my son's first kindergarten teacher explaining how bad my son's behavior was for the days of 10/20 and 10/21/2009 (including, "he touched another child at share time"--really? He was 5. They are all touching each other at that age),

a post-it that outlined how I was going to correct my son's "deviant" behavior at home and the rewards he'd receive if he "behaved" (I am using the quotation marks here intentionally and accurately), rewards that included "biking, hiking, gelato, two-square, pizza at Bronx Pizza,"

three western blots,

yellow legal pad paper with the locations of Target, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods in Monterey,

a note from my niece that reads "I love you so much, Tia,"

a map of Paris,

the card from my friends' dad's funeral,

spring semester after hours parking permit for SDSU,

two pictures from my son diagramming a plant's physical structures,

my son's first first grade report card (that's from this week),

a beer list from Anchor & Hope, a kick-ass San Francisco restaurant,

post-its describing PCR primers,

and much scribbling in the margins and empty filler pages (which includes a very bad poem--who am I?).

And as Kurt Vonnegut says, "so it goes"--another book, another year.

Incidentally, this book now falls in the "do not lend out" category. So don't ask.


  1. no WAY. i came across your blog via the "next blog" feature, and I TOO JUST FINISHED READING ACEDIA & ME! wrote a theology paper on it in fact. what a great book. that's all.

  2. It is a great book. Hard to read quickly. Really showed me a few things about myself and life. Thanks for reading.