Monday, October 13, 2008

Forgeting to finish books 

I started reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in 2006, then I forgot to finish. I was working in for the Picture People, a kids portrait studio in a big shopping mall. During my breaks, or when there weren't customers, I'd read Thus Spake Zarathustra.

I don't remember where I actually got the book. Some used book store. The introduction is dated 1905.

I read it while eating curly fries at the edge of a balcony looking over the mall. I remember thinking then about my cousin in Germany who was then wanting to become a US Marine. He'd become a Marine and would kill Osama bin Laden, who'd tried to kill our infant cousin, our aunt, and her husband by dropping two buildings on them and kill our uncles hoping they happened to be at meetings in the Pentagon that day. I'd become a psychiatrist and an expert on killology, and I'd cure him of whatever traumatic stress the acts of combat and killing left his mind injured. We'd be an avenging pair, we'd avenge the attempted murder of our infant cousin (and the grown-ups, but the 9-month-old choking on ash and smoke made us feel more indignant than the adults did).

I brought that book out to Oregon with me when I went to a writers' conference. I read it in the college cafeteria, trying to eat disgusting college cafeteria food and wondering how to make conversation or even friends with the other people here, the "real" writers. I was a fake, and I knew they could see that. I dreamed of being an ubermensche, but I knew I wasn't.

Sometimes dramatic events interrupt my reading for years. I was reading Sanctuary by William Faulkner years ago, on a plane from Australia to the US. Mid-flight and mid-book, the mild cold I had been fighting turned into an ear infection. Days after I landed, when I saw a doctor, I learned I had strep in my throat, sinuses, and one ear. He was amazed my ear drum hadn't burst from the pressure. I remember the pain was too strong to read. The slight changes in cabin pressure were excruciating. I literally cried for seven hours, until we landed. By then, I was in so much pain and so delirious from lack of sleep, I could stagger through customs and to the car with my parents' help, without tears or emotion. I never picked up Sanctuary again.

I never picked up Thus Spake Zarathustra again.

Neither book is tainted. I have Nietzsche here next to me. I still love the cover, the worn, sun-bleached spine, the dry pages. It has too much history for any single event to change how I feel about the book. I've lost my copy of Sanctuary, but I'll pick it up again at some point. I found the Nietzsche first, though. He came up in a conversation yesterday with my husband, and I realized I never finished Thus Spake Zarathustra. There is nothing stopping me. I just forgot it.

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