Thursday, June 25, 2009

How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation Epilogue

or, I Have a Crush on Lauren Winner

I have a little crush on Lauren F. Winner, and it's not just because I wish I was raised Jewish. I don't think I understood right away—when I first picked up Mudhouse Sabbath last summer, at the behest of the INN University Ministries staff—just how wonderful a mind and writer Lauren Winner is. No, not until Girl Meets God did I realize what an elegant command of language Winner has, in addition to her wealth of knowledge on her subjects. By all appearances, come to think of it, my crush on Lauren Winner is grounded in the same basic appreciations as I have toward Chuck Klosterman's body of work. I suppose that's the usefulness of the term man crush; I just never thought I'd be the one to use it.

ANYWAY, since reading Girl Meets God, I've devoured volume after volume of excellent fiction and nonfiction alike. The bookshelf above my bed began to sag precariously the other day, so, to prevent a midnight clobbering in the event of a Pacific Northwest earthquake, I moved the ones I was less attached to out to the bookshelf in the living room. Sometimes I fear people tire of my constant, insatiable reading habit, but when I discovered a copy of Lauren Winner's book Real Sex—provocative!—The Naked Truth about Chastity—yet traditional!—in a box of free books, I took it for my never-ending reading queue anyway. I'd never seen a picture of her on any of her other books, but there she was on the inside jacket, a modest black and white portrait, horn-rimmed glasses and everything. Her marital status aside, her geek chic sensibilities confirmed for me that the two of us are meant to be together. (An aside: Some will be able to attest that this isn't the first time I've made declarations to this effect regarding women whose work I admire, including in no particular order: Audrey Tautou, Zooey Deschanel, Alison Sudol, Sloane Crosley, Tina Fey, that one barista at Avellino, Gertrude Chandler Warner, and Cosette. This, however, in no way diminishes my feelings for Lauren.) But none of this is really my point.

Perhaps the greatest dovetailing between Lauren Winner's life and mine is her own voracious capacity for reading. In one section of Girl Meets God she discusses the enormity of her bookshelf, the tremendous stack of books she's dying to read, and the agony it was to abstain from literature for the duration of one Lent. I remember being flabbergasted at even the notion of such a task at first, but lately I've been wondering if it might not be such a bad thing for me. So often I hole up in my bedroom with my nose in a book. When I'm not there, chances are I'm at a coffee shop with a book. Even when I'm spending a day in the park with friends, my instinct is to sprawl on a blanket and read without stopping until we leave. I blame my work. I blame the fact that I employed by a bookstore and need to know what I'm selling; I blame the fact that I want to write books for a living and, ipso facto, must read them in order to do so properly. All these things are true—having books to recommend is necessary in bookselling, reading other writers' books helps craft how I will write my own—but what's to say about moderation?

I suppose it's easy to live life in books—those already written, mind you; it's a hard thing to put your own life in a book. All the events are already planned out, set in unwavering motion, and I just get to kick back and watch them play, an existence of mere observation without personally experiencing the consequences therein. Significantly more difficult is to actually live in the moment of one's own life, even for those of us who don't tear through used bookstores like toddlers in a candy shop. We look ahead to the future, living in moments yet to come in a list of and thens that detail prospective career paths and vacations and retirement. We relive whatever golden years we can think of—college, high school, before Ross and Rachel broke up, before Michael Jackson died, when the Sonics were still in Seattle, our own infancies—and forget about the potential of the present. I'm guilty of just as many of these (except maybe the bit about the Sonics—or the break-up for that matter). Unlike Lauren Winner, I won't be taking hiatus from my summer reading—the list is much too long to quit—but I think I'm going to try and be a bit more relaxed when it comes to actually achieving my literary goals in favor of enjoying the opportunity these months afford me to connect and spend time with friends. Friends that, I hope, will forgive my gracelessness at conversing over anything besides books.


cindyhan111 said...

my favorite engagement is 'book club' as cliche as that sounds... but this one specifically focus' on spiritual and theological books, open to the fools heart like mine.
friends indeed, they are to be willing to meet on friday's lunch hour at a local bookstore!

L.L. Barkat said...

Last year, this weekend, I was in Texas with Lauren, paddling up the Frio River. I don't think we talked about her books at all. But then, we didn't talk about mine either. :)