It wants to be everything that was ever a book. So it uses non-fiction & fiction– fact & narrative. It’s a memoir about a life entangled with reading, the autobiography of a reader, a novel about friendship, a polemic against meaningless work.
It’s an an enquiry concerning human understanding as it cuts like ice through literature, science, history, sex magick, religion, politics & art.
It contains interviews, reviews, poetry, a play. It has tables, maps, a family tree, diagrams, photos & illustrations. It has a thumb index!
A glacial book like this takes a few pages to get moving. It starts with an appreciation by a life-long reader, my mom. And builds toward the first vignette with a preamble, preface, forward, introduction and prologue.
Its arc follows a 30-year partnership with a woman I love. Somewhere in there we had a kid & lost one. It floats from job to job. Drinks with Bukowski, fucks with de Beauvoir, hurls misery with Raymond Carver, fights oppression with Malcolm, Huey, Howard, Noam, Emma… hits the road with Kerouac. And crumbles into a ball of loss with Toni Morrison.
For awhile I felt like Gumby entering the books I read. I spoke in a Scottish brogue while reading Irvine Welsh and banged on the glass inside the bell jar. I was searching the labyrinth of Borges’ infinite library with Kafka by my side in search of David Foster Wallace. He said that books could save you from loneliness, but they didn’t save him. We walked through Lynn Tillman’s piss-smelling tenement hallways and slept on Garcia-Marquez’ cum-soaked sheets. We feasted with Michael Pollan and sang like drunks in a midnight choir with Leonard Coen and Dee Dee Ramone. And then the book stores started closing. And the headlines rang out the death of the book. I bought cheap ones at library book sales, and picked them up from back alleys around the city. I thought I could save them.
I crossed paths with some of the great writers of my generation, studying hard in the shadows of ‘America’s 37th Most literate city.’ My family, my friends taught me so much over the years, but one thing I learned from a book was that people move on to later phases of their lives.