Read it and weep

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When I was a wee lass (until I was, oh, eighteen or so) I would get a thrill on those rare occasions when I saw one of my teachers in the grocery store. It was titillating to realize that they, too, shopped at Food Lion. It was like sighting a celebrity (or so I assume; I’ve never bumped into a movie star at the library. Can’t for the life of me figure out why not.)

The magic of these encounters promptly vanished the time I saw my university’s chancellor in Harris Teeter. That wasn’t a woman I cared to encounter. I still wince when I see her photo in the alumni magazine.

But the point here is that I was inordinately excited to see someone from the dazzling world of school out in the gritty real world of Food Lion.

Today I became that person.

I was in Staples, thanks to a ten dollar gift certificate I had won as part of a library contest. By virtue of the brilliance of insightful, nuanced, cutting-edge reviews of area venues, I was picked to receive this enviable reward. Well—probably it was the brilliance of my reviews. There’s a slim chance my name was drawn randomly from a hat. Goddess knows I wrote enough of the damn things. After running out of restaurants and yoga centers to review, I moved on to thrift stores and laundromats, and when I ran out of those, I was reduced to reviewing traffic intersections, parking garages, and my desk at work (three stars: messy, but it has personality).

I spent my ten dollars on ink pens. I’m fussy about pens. They’re mightier than the sword, for starters, so it behooves me to select them carefully. Also, my handwriting is tiny, as in miniscule, as in itsy-bitsy. I only deign to use ultra-fine points. Also again, I really prefer blue ink, because it’s pretty.

As I stood contemplating pensively (get it? Pensively?), I heard a voice: “Hey, library person!” That’s a direct quote, mind.

Ah, yes. Library person. Like my teachers before me, I am become a recognizable pillar of the community. I trust that this is because of my professionalism and excellent service, and not at all because my hair is sort of, erm, distinctive at the moment.

Twice in the past week I’d helped the person who said hi. He’s a kind of, well, bulky fella—not at all fat, but lives-in-the-gym kind of bulk. My first thought on seeing him was “Meathead,” for which I immediately chastised myself. Judging on appearances is exactly what I do not want people to do to me when they see my pink hair (unless they judge “Ah! Sense of fun, but clearly intellectual and socially liberal!”). Besides, what if the guy was psychic?

I thought that, really: “Ack, what if he’s psychic and heard me call him a meathead?”

In physique and demeanor the guy reminded me of Gym Instructor Jeff, the owner of the gym my parents go to. Gym Instructor Jeff is, for all intents, the exact opposite of Hairdresser Jeff. HD Jeff is urbane, slender, and gay. GI Jeff is country, built like a hoss, and… well, I try not to assume about people’s sexual orientations, but if he’s gay I’m a two-dollar whore, which I am not, so there you have it.

Haven’t thought of GI Jeff in ages, but my subconscious took the thought and ran with it. That’s how I ended up on the high school wrestling team in my dream the other night.

In other exciting news, it’s a new month, and that means it’s time for new book displays! I don’t do a book display every month, but this time around I’ve got a theme that can’t lose: Read it and Weep!

Or it seemed like it couldn’t lose, when I thought of it a while back, though now I’m starting to wonder if people will really want to grab depressing books. “Oh look, there’s a display of books to put me in a bad mood! Perfect for this sunny summer weather! I think I’ll take two!”

One side of the display is nonfiction and the other side is fiction, because I could not, in good conscience, place Nicholas Sparks alongside The Diary of Anne Frank. I can not in good conscience place Nicholas Sparks anywhere but the paper shredder, but I was having a hard time coming up with weepy contemporary fiction. Old stuff, that’s easy to find—I could easily fill a display with tear-jerkers from Thomas Hardy and Edith Wharton and other classic authors whom very few people care to read today. I did include some of the 19th-century novelists, and a few twentieth-century classics (because Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), but it was difficult for me to find weepy current stuff in fiction.

Nonfiction was much easier. To say nothing of books about war, or biographies of tragic figures, there are all those lovely Social Science books lurking in the 300s. Failed school systems! The working poor! Institutional racism! Incarceration, drug abuse, gambling, global warming!

What can I say? I love to read books like that. Maybe other people will, too.

But don’t worry—not everything on the display is depressing. I picked a few sappy sentimental tear-jerkers. There’s Owen and Mzee, for example. Remember hearing about them? Owen is the baby hippo who lost his parents in a flood. Mzee is the hundred-something-year-old tortoise who adopted him.

(Oh God, I’m tearing up just writing about it.)

There’s a kid’s picture book about Owen and Mzee. It was a natural choice for the display. But when I went to pull it from the shelf, I discovered the sequel.

Foolishly, I skimmed through it at the desk. How daft can I be? By the time I was halfway through I was sniffling and wiping my eyes.

Maybe my maudlin sentimentality is the reason I was never invited to join the wrestling team.


4 responses »

  1. the Queen of Claremont

    Just catching up on your blogs…life’s been too nucking futz for much extracurricular stuff lately!A fiction for your Read it and Weep – I’m in the middle of The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke; there’s a mystery among the details of Katrina and Rita.I’ve a penchant for pens myself; love the same things you do. I’m well known as a penklepto if the right criteria are present.For all the wordsmiths that read this blog…you have to check out from your local library: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. I promise you’ll LOL as well as maybe have the mysteries of different philosphies revealed!

  2. I love fiction weepies. Norman Maclean’s A River Runs through It gets me every time, as does JD Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (okay, and Franny and Zooey too, if I’m being completely honest), and Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe.

  3. I love your website. And, it is nice to have a new friend.. Kilah (sounds like Key Lah) Julahski (sounds like Jew Lah Ski) – See you Later Gator, Your New Grant Friend… TuTsi Uwahti or Roy

  4. One time I was in Wal-Mart and had a group of little kids yelling at their mom, "that’s the lady from the library!" I made sure not to make eye contact and took off in the other direction. I’m pretty sure they chased me for five aisles before their mom finally got them to leave me the hell alone. Gah!


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