My life in books

After three mind-numbing meetings on Friday, I had the grand plan to go to the VAG to check out Brian Jungen and Takao Tanabe’s exhibits before they end (Apr.17). I was going to dress in all black, further ward off strangers in my ice queen black Jacob waistcoat, wear big silver hoops, and generally be very tragic. After the VAG, I was going to nurse a mug of latte art and continue being tragic by reading Anna Karenina and writing in my journal at Caffe Artigiano. My plans were dashed when the gallery closed at 5:30 and the cafe turned out to be too trendy. To big-box Chapters (bookstore) on Robson instead.

As I’m tracking the titles that caught my eye, I realize how much of my current state of mind is reflected in them….

One of the sections on the way to the escalators is Bargain Books and there were pocket-sized hardcover editions of classics with gold-leaf edged pages and ribbon placeholders for $7.99. I spied D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Women in Love and wondered how utterly lame I would feel to read about crushingly sensual, sensational love. (Like it’s some kind of instruction manual… or, worse, a substitution for the real thing.) It’s for the same reason I don’t read relationship articles in Cosmo magazines or knowingly watch romantic Hollywood movies.

These days I feel as one on some kind of warpath and the next section I visited was Foreign Languages since I have recently recalled how I no longer have a Lonely Planet Cantonese Phrasebook (it went to another good home) and it’s so good the new edition is high up on my Wish List. I evaluated the Berlitz phrasebook and decidedly did not agree with the Romanization.

I also flipped through Speaking of Chinese, a cute book about the language but not designed to teach it, and Volume 2 of 250 Essential Chinese Characters. At $5.99, the latter is dirt-cheap, I can’t help bumping it up my Wish List. I didn’t see The Dictionary of Cantonese Slang at the store but it’s quite a bit pricier than books I would usually buy.

In a complete about-face, I flipped through Norah Vincent’s Self-made Man, a journalist’s 18-month journey as a man. She’s a compelling writer… and makes a pretty good-looking man. Rather than reading some self-help book like Men are from Mars, this book seems a more educational sojourn into the male world and psyche.

I never really know what current best-seller to read. That’s why I end up with stuffy classics (Anna Karenina, Mansfield Park, Vanity Fair, and Portrait of a Lady being amongst my most recent – perhaps you could say it’s chick lit. classics and far better written) or Asian-American/Canadian lit.

So I was back in Bargain Books, lingering, aggravated that the blessed store was closing at the early hour of 10 p.m. and the particular Chapters’ Star*bucks did not have a seating area where I could be a cliched, pseudo-artsy Vancouverite sipping a latte at Star*bucks.

The Rounded-heel Woman caught my attention. It is an old-fashioned term for a promiscuous woman and the book is actually a memoir of the golden (senior) years when the author decided to frolic… a lot. Sometimes I feel old as tombs and wouldn’t mind reading the exploits of a mature lady – better that than some sappy, wide-eyed, gushy naif….

Alain de Botton wrote Status Anxiety but I was more intrigued by his Art of Travel (which was not present) as I am concerned about making the most of traveling days.

Closer to the door were Hot Picks (or something to that effect) and one lingers to keep one eye on the cool, trendy new books and the other eye on who is coming in. That’s where the ultra-geeky Grammar Snobs are Big Meanies was placed and I would be interested. (This coming from the girl who delighted over and bought Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. My writing is entirely rambling in this overrun post, sorry.)

One of the last books I saw was What Did I do Wrong?. It has a pop art cover that reminds me of the still-unreleased Breakupbabe: The Novel. It made me momentarily sad as I think of a girl I haven’t treated overly well. At times I feel justified in my actions but I still couldn’t escape a huge pang of guilt when I knew she was crying one day. If things were different, I would have joined the other girl in consoling her. Instead, I had to pretend not to notice.

On this day..