Much like Jay Gatsby, I own a library of books I’ve never read. Not that I know that, I’ve not read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opus. Nor have I Tolstoy’s, so I fear it’s time to wage war on my own hubris.
Many moons ago, and for no reason whatsoever, I made a decision to read more books. But I was weak, I was unprepared and I was lazy. I let someone else decide what my tastes were, I found the arms of a harmful beau, The (notable book retailer name omitted)’s Top 100 book list.
It seemed to make sense, the way forward. They were in the know. But much like those with homely limbs and relaxed moral attitudes found cheaply under early morning discotheque-ian flickerings, the sobered hours of realisation are harsh ones.
As I awoke later that afternoon, post celebratory post-shopping binge-nap, I tasted the bitter fruit of my impulses. Tolstoy’s War and Peace, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Homer’s Odyssey and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, with a fancy new cover with that steerage passenger who drowned after that boat sank.
Brass-tacks. What sat at my feet was a well-odoured paper-bag of utter desolation.
The receipt was a factor. As was the guilt. My mind, reeling in shock, zapped to the conclusion of taking them back, to start over. But to choose what? The books that placed below the ones on the list? I had no time for those losers.
Never one to walk away from a relationship, I thought I’d nag it into something pliable.
I tried, James Joyce. Really I did. But your brogues cut my tootsies. I got to the end of the second page – twice. All I know for sure is that someone walked down a flight of steps, in a jacket, spouting some sort of gibberish. I only know this fact because I rode shotgun with the Internet as I worked my way down the page. I watched the movie instead of the book re: Gatsby, I was unable to differ the introductions from the action in Odyssey and subsequently fled the quest of noble Odysseus when twelve people entered the same room.
The best of my efforts, for which I am most proud, was with War and Peace. I was so proud in fact, that it accompanied my travels everywhere. I’m absolutely certain that Centrelink employees and deadbeats alike were impressed with my pristine penguin classic copy, with the bookmark planted all the way on page 317. Even my girlfriend’s parents at the time, who for some reason disliked me, downed tools and cooed, “Ooooh, War and Peace, eh?”, to which I said, “Yeah.”
I was unable to push on beyond Dimitri’s woe. It was banished to the gulag. Which was another problem in itself; the bookshelf sat in the prime spot of my lounge room. Most of the other furniture either belonged to my roommates, or was originally engineered to transport milk. But the bookshelf was mine. It was made out of some sort of wood, burgundy and foreboding. It oozed class and stood out.
I’m not proud of myself, looking back; my usage of Pulitzer material to chum for members of the opposite gender. I can still see myself sitting there, obviously ignoring the unread collection of pompousness, as they were drawn to it, as an avenue to bridge conversational gaps or more likely, not address the complete lack of furniture that a man in his mid-twenties owned. Shudder. There was no furniture in my house, but it was full of myself.
But I was foolish in keeping you, Tolstoy. If it was ever going to happen between us, Leo, it would have happened by now. I’ve moved onto books who like me back, not ones who sit there, reminding me of who I no longer am. It’s my fault, I pushed you to this, and I ignored you. But it’s your fault too. If you made more sense and engaged me in a conversation, and didn’t just talk at me, maybe things could have been different.
But now you have to leave. And take your friends with you.