Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Scylla and Charybdis

Am I spelling that correctly? Who cares? This is a "blog"! Here I am, stuck between two sacred vows: that of telling you every time I encounter a representation of a man with a cigarette holder, and that of NEVER telling you "what I'm reading" ever again, because you don't care! And you shouldn't! But okay. I was reading Tobias Wolff's novel OLD SCHOOL today, and on page 30 of the paperback we find the young protagonist, a scholarship student at a male boarding school where smoking is strictly forbidden, explaining some of the tricks he uses to get around the ban: "I kept a store of spearmint Life Savers to mask my breath and used a holder so my fingers wouldn't stain." Ah, cursed cigarette holders! (That's me, not Tobias Wolff. Tobias Wolff would never, thank God, write a sentence like, "Ah! cursed cigarette holders!") My point being, the cursed cigarette holders, and my vow regarding them, have forced me to forfeit a dearer vow. In fact, I must now go on to tell you that after I finished the Beethoven book, I read HAM ON RYE by Charles Bukowski. My reasoning is this: By leaving the false impression that I had gone straight from a book about Beethoven to a book by Tobias Wolff, I would be falsely aggrandizing myself! Not that there is anything wrong with Bukowski, exactly, though I always thought there was. I was prodded into reading HAM ON RYE, my first ever crack at Bukowski, because Barry Hannah gave such a strong recommendation of that book in the most recent issue of The Oxford American. Now I will not "blog" here and tell you that HAM ON RYE was my cup of tea, exactly, but I admired its grit and vivid passages, and the truthful details of the ways in which we all feel sorry for ourselves and the many funny/horrific parts, such as a baby named Gobbles who drinks tiny shots of whiskey, and even the parts that made me think NOPE! NO MORE OF THIS FOR ME! but somehow compelled me to keep going, and yes, there were always rewards, all the way to the end. Now okay, that's it. I'm not going to talk about "what I'm reading" EVER AGAIN! To quote a particularly apt aphorism from HAM ON RYE: "Only a--holes talk about writing." And then the narrator and his writing chum beat the you-know-what out of one another, mostly for fun.