I keep lists of the books I've read. I keep the books too, but it's the lists that make me feel less internally displaced. Same thing with the notebooks, the thousands of scrawled upon fragments, everything I've ever thought worthy of writing down and keeping - I do it not to remember what or where or why, I do it to remember myself.
The lists of books are like roadmaps. I can use them to navigate and plot the points of my past.
Like the time when I was nineteen and met this guy and after a couple of days of running charmed and drunk across the sky it came to light, by way of the book I was reading, that he didn't know who Henry Miller was. I remember this in far clearer focus than what I remember the actual book in. I remember feeling genuinely flabbergasted in the 'what kind of person are you?' manner that nineteen year olds are fluent in. I remember waving the book around barking "Tropic of Capricorn? Tropic of Cancer? Ring any bells? in uncomprehending disbelief. Obnoxious, I know.
Now I am older and understand that not only do some people not read, but that some people have zero interest in books, authors, or the written word in any real form whatsoever. Just one of the several dozen fundamental truths that my young self failed to grasp. And the guy? He and I lasted a couple of weeks; a month, however long we were supposed to before our gold light began to bleed to grey.
Did the Henry Miller issue hasten the dimming of the golden light? Hard to say. The large quantities of cheap wine he drank from a squeezy sports bottle probably accelerated the fade out more than the Miller thing, but certain things; mere trifles, often, do have a habit of lodging themselves in my mind and festering freely, for good or ill. Plus, the fact that I remember and am writing about this nearlylko ten years later seems to confirm that it did.
So. There was that. Flip the coin, toss it high, and turn to the time when a French boy walking past the tent I was sprawled in - spread out like Jesus on the cross and in a hot lather of that very specific 'lying in a molten nylon womb' sweat - noticed that I was reading American Psycho and returned a minute later with a cold rock melon, a knife and the French language version of American Psycho that he himself was reading. "Ahhh, is, 'ow you say, destiny, no...?" Whatever. If it was meant to be knicker-rippingly seductive it worked. Well played, Frederique, well played. Word to Bret Easton Ellis, too.
As it turned out, that Henry Miller book I read was to be both my first and last. I fucking hated that book. I abandoned it in a South Australian laundromat alongside a pile of That's Life magazines. Miller would have rolled and writhed in his grave at this, the rotten son of a bitch. Or would he? From what I understand, which is very little, I think Miller wrote as a reaction against all that he saw which dulled and deadened life, in the same way Bukowski did. Horror. They were both horrified. People, the masses, the nightmare of them;
"their sounds, their decayed unlaughing laughter and faces as brutal and ugly and impossible as any matter you can dream up...and the eyes, the eyes, no eyes at all"
That kind of wraps up That's Life and ties a bow on it right there, so yeah, I don't think Miller would have been too chuffed with his company there. I know he liked the seamier, seedier side of life, but this was no 1930s Parisian laundrette with steam and soiled underclothes and a buxom young laundress he could bend over a basket.
I just discovered, by way of Google, that every photo of Henry Miller, ever, contins at least two tits. BALLER. (Not his, either; this is no "Bob had bitch tits" situation. It's a straight up BALLER situation.) See also: every edition of every one of his books.
So I write this and the very same night my brother texts me to tell me, apropos of the Polack he was out with, that I should try re-reading Henry Miller. "I know you didn't rate him ten years ago but I think you would now". He followed this up a second later with "Fire up you sad cunt!" because, well, who wouldn't link Henry Miller with Mark 'Toey Human Number One' Gasnier? They share Paris and a propensity for obscenity, it's only logical!
Are there lessons in these fragments, folded like unfurled flower petals? Maybe. Probably. Possibly that books and book talk are an effective way to sweeten somebody (i.e. me) who has a near-total aversion to people. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. There is also the suggestion here that some people (i.e. me) may require potential partners to possess a rudimentary understanding of, y'know, that literary shit? I say this even though Henry Miller turned out to be a ranting, hyper-masculine windbag. Guys? You gotta know what's up. To what degree is yours to decide.
I used to think that any man who could read without his lips moving was acceptable. Well, it wasn't, and it isn't. I'm not looking for shared literary tastes on any grand scale, just some literary taste. How doI feel about boys who only read biographies or the collected works of Jeremy Clarkson? If they are in full possession of the rest of their faculties and all of their teeth I can't see there being any problems. I read Joey Johns' book - that epic doorstop The Two of Me, and his brother Matthew's From the Sheds, and Brad Fittler's Freddy (yes, really - and I imagined Freddy narrating it to me in his punch-drunk voice and free-wheeling way - it was a good time), and I have Mal Meninga's Big Mal waiting on the shelf (where it may well remain now he has inflamed my righteous Blue ire to such a feverish extent) and I was saucer-eye enthralled by them all. I wish more NRL identities had books detailing their turbulent, fabulous careers, truth be told. I think Jason Stevens has one? About God and stuff? Yeah, no.
From the yeah, no, to the fuck, yeh files comes this fun fact: Bret Easton Ellis, that SICK GENIUS FUCK - know what his all-time favourite music video is? Boys of Summer - Don Henly!!!! I know, right? This struck me as being pretty great. And by 'pretty great' I obviously mean fuck-off fantastic. Is Don Henly the Eagles' drummer or am I way off base? Anyway, love the song - it's an elegy to summers gone by; love the video - it's all wayfarer sunglasses and Deadhead stickers on cadillacs and closed-up holiday houses; and love Bret Easton Ellis some more (sick genius fuck that he is).
To the best of my memory I think American Psycho is the only book I've ever bought that has been wrapped in plastic ("SHE'S DEAD - WRAPPED IN PLASSSTIC" and visions of Laura Palmer's beautiful, blue-lipped corpse, anyone? Bueller...Bueller? Just me then?). And there was an incident at the bookshop when I was unable to produce ID to prove I was over eighteen, for the simple fact that I wasn't over eighteen. And I was using a voucher that I had been given at my tenth grade end of year awards presentation.
American Psycho has given me, among many, many other things - (a fear of naked men in white sneakers weilding power tools, a fear of men who fill in crossword boxes with words like 'bone' and 'meat', a fear of men who exfoliate excessively - I could go on but y'all see where this is going, right?) - access to the single greatest and most ludicrous excuse, for anything, ever. Dazzling in its simplicity, audacious in its absurdity, I give you Patrick Bateman's default excuse/alibi for everything. Literally, everything.