Thursday, August 24, 2006

Things That I Will Keep...

...the things that keep me.

I am obsessed with my media collection. My books, my albums (CD's), my DVD's, I spend a lot of time grooming them and looking them over. At times, I think, I am more interested in the maintenance of the collection rathen than its actual content (read: intrinsic artistic value). In my old place, the barcalounger was right next to the shelf unit (IKEA, natch) that housed my CD's. Whenever I would get bored with what happened to be on the television, my eyes would wander over to my albums and I would look them up and down and make sure they were still ordered according to my particular, albeit unoriginal, filing system [genre (broadly defined) --> alphabetical by artist --> chronological by album --> remasters get filed next to their original release]. And among them are always the releases that were purchased for the sole purpose of properly filling out the collection (like Almost Blue even though I rarely listen to any Costello release post-Get Happy!!) which is a good illustration of how my collection has started to take on a life of its own.

But with books I am even worse. I would have to say that there is a 50/50 split between books I've wanted to read and books I thought I should read. Por ejemplo, right now I am reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. One Hundred Fucking Years of Solitude. There is no chance in hell I would have ever picked up this book in the store, read the back cover, thumbed through a few pages, and said "Oh, I gotta read this." But because it is considered a modern masterpiece or whatever I figured I had to read it. And more importantly, I knew it would look good on my bookshelf if I ever had any company over looking through it. Because that's what I do. You can tell so much about a person by digging through his or her books and CD's. If I'm dating someone new, I go straight to her media collection the first time I visit her place. (I generally assume that most people aren't as pretensiously cynical as me and therefore have mostly genuine entries in their respective music and literary collections.) So who knows, maybe the next time some young lady is perusing my bookshelf, it will be Sr. Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude that helps me seal the deal. It could happen:
"You've got so many great books."
[whispers]"The better to seduce you with."
"Uh, all the better to deduce the truth with."
-- The Tao of Steve

Much to my surprise and satisfaction, I am actually enjoying the book. It's extremely engrossing and I burned through almost half of it on my trip home from San Antonio. The last time I did something like this it did not work out nearly as well. I got on this kick where it seemed absolutely necessary that I read Moby Dick. There were two main reasons. One, because the Literary Establishment deems it an ultimate example of American Literature, whatever that means. And two because at the end of Star Trek II, Khan paraphrases Ahab while screaming to a Kirk that cannot hear him "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!" Awesome, if the whole book is like this than it must kick ass. Wrong. Maybe I am a literary philistine but Melville is boring as hell. I maybe made it through three chapters when I just gave up. And I am sorry, but it is riddled with homo-erotic subtext. Not that there's anything wrong with that but it reminded a lot of watching the volleyball scene in Top Gun, as in "How exactly does this serve the plot?"

I also had a similar experience with Joseph Conrad feverishly working my way towards one fantastic quote while struggling with almost every other word. "Marlow" was a difficult man to follow.

Anyway, the point being that I am reading a novel because it will look good on my bookshelf. Probably not the kind of motivation that would lead people into a life of comparative lit.


At 8/24/2006 10:58 AM, Blogger Dara said...

Wow. I totally agree with just about everything here. I mean, I keep my massive CD and DVD collection hyperorganized (and, gulp, cassette tapes, too!), I completely judge people based on their collections, and I think that even though Heart of Darkness was really short, it was really difficult to follow. Plus, I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude so much that I bought it for my sister for this past Christmanukah.

At 8/24/2006 11:03 AM, Blogger Washington Cube said...

Moby Dick huh? Trying to picture you working through the chapters on whaling.

At 8/24/2006 11:26 AM, Blogger DCVita said...

I had a friend that would buy two of the same DVD. One to watch, and the other for his "collection". And then I have another friend that would go out of his way to find a leather bound copy of any book he reads so that he can have it on his bookshelf at home, simply for the "nice look it gives." And I thought I had strange habits!

And a friend of mine just gave me One Hundred Years of Solitude to read also. I have not started reading it yet, but like you, I feel like have to only becuase it is one of those books that you have to Moby Dick!

At 8/24/2006 11:37 AM, Blogger Ryane said...

Oh wow. You would absolutely flip out if you saw my CD collection. I LOVE my CD's...however. They are in no particular order. At all. In fact, I have even had occasion to find CD's for one band in the jacket for another!!

But do I re-gain grace if I also say that Moby Dick was awful, and that I find Hemingway even worse??

At 8/24/2006 1:52 PM, Blogger Jason said...

I never knew Melville could elicit such a reaction from everyone. The other odd thing about my Moby Dick experience is that the copy I was reading came from my parents' "library." It was from their Britannica Great Books collection, you know, all those hardbacks with gold-tipped pages and matching binding. In 20+ years of ownership I was the first person to crack the spines on any of those books. Great investment, dad.

I never made it to the whaling chapters. Ishmael's pedantic description of Queequeg's naked body was enough for me.

The Marquez book is great although a bit strange. I highly reccommend it.

Points for siding with me on M.D.

At 8/24/2006 4:12 PM, Blogger Jawn said...

"Speak not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." -- Wrong, wrong, and wrong on the "Moby Dick"/Melville thing. And you are way too smart to toss that one off so casually. I suggest you try reading it again.

At 8/24/2006 4:53 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Me, hastey? Always a possibility.


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