Readers, I am a geek. It’s not easy for me to admit, and I’m not looking to be cured, but just telling you is so cathartic. I know, you read this blog about my fabulous house and my amazing job and my happy, well-trained dog and my general contentment with the state of the world and you think, I envy that girl her life.
But the truth is much more sordid. I’ve kept it from you, and for that I apologize. I just wanted us to get to know each other a little bit, to try to see each other in a more complete light, before I told you the whole truth. Is that so wrong? I was afraid you would turn your back on me when the whole thing finally came out.
Deep breath—I’m a book nerd. I guess I knew it from the time that I was small; I used to read the text on bags of potato chips to my parents from my booster seat. In school, I hid good books inside my textbooks as early as third grade. Oh, I tried to fit in but there was no hiding my expanded vocabulary and easy ability to tease out context clues. They are the mark of a reader, and my teachers and classmates had my number.
My sick, antisocial behavior has only grown worse over the years. I tell you this only because I love you; about seventy-five percent of the time, I’d rather be reading than talking to you. I pick out purses based on their ability to hold a paperback. I hoard books and magazines, because I get light-headed and panicky when I have nothing to read. Some of you have received those anguished phone calls from me at the beginning of the weekend, begging shamelessly for books. It’s not easy sometimes, being friends with a person like me.
Last week, a well-meaning, otherwise kind person gave me a book from the Left Behind series. These books horrify me, primally, like giant slugs or two-headed cows. I can’t even look at the displays of them. And yet, and yet…alone in the car while my sister ran in to 7-11, finished with my New Yorker…did I not pick it up? It felt wrong, but also so right. My eyes were already starting to caress the blurbs when a half-forgotten Jane Smiley caught my eye from the door-well. But what might have happened if it hadn’t been there? It’s too awful to contemplate.
I used to console myself with the idea that if I wasn’t quite normal, I was at least somewhat superior because reading is educational. But then I started keeping track and I realized I’d been lying even to myself. Oh sure, out of 100 books a year, some of them are fine, upstanding novels and biographies. Memoirs, political books, hot literary fiction. But secretly, away from prying eyes, I read a lot of crap. I read vapid chick-lit (not to say that it’s all vapid—I read the good stuff too.) I can’t believe I’m admitting this in public, but I read science fiction. That’s right! The fat, mass-market ones that are aimed at teenage boys. I hide them behind the other books on my shelf but they’re there, festering out of sight like a chancre on my soul.
I read The Da Vinci Code, and Angels and Demons, just because everyone else was doing it. In the spirit of truth, I confess that I have read The Mists of Avalon at least five times. I read the Catcher in the Rye every year. I still read ingredient lists to comfort myself in moments of bookless crisis. Until recently, I subscribed to eight magazines, and I read them all. And I don’t pay any attention to the pictures, nay, even in Vanity Fair. I am a sick, sick individual.
I can accept the fact that my kind of people don’t get the Cool Kid credit that music nerds get. Encyclopedic knowledge of obscure Britpop bands from the 90s will trump my hoard of trivia about midlist literary fiction authors every time. Even gaming enthusiasts get more credit than bookworms, because their addiction requires the use of computers, which makes it seem futuristic or something. I’ve made my peace with that.
But my bookish life has become too disordered. The chase for the next book, which used to be so invigorating, has started to wear me out. I’m not saying that I’ll change my essential being, or that the pathetic phone calls will stop. When you come over to visit, I’ll still make you enable me by carting away a bag of books to free up shelf space. But in order to gain control over my addiction, I’m starting a new project. One that will impose some discipline and order on the unruly mobs of new releases that beseech me from all sides.
I’m going to read a biography pf each American president, in order. I’m going to blog about it relentlessly, and you are all going to read my blog entries and comment profusely. I’m going to make staggering leaps of logic to compare the life and times of Washington and Jefferson with my own. This idea came to me as a partial answer to two questions: One, what is more vain than blogging? (Trying to find the similarities between your life and the Founding Fathers’ Lives while blogging.); and two, how in the hell did Bush become president? (I have a pretty good idea that it involves oil money and religious fanatics, but out of respect for the republic I thought I’d go back and examine the historical processes that led us to this moment. My country does, in fact, need me and my geeky love of books and politics, as well as my freakishly long attention span.
This project, tentatively titled How To Be President in 43 Heavy Texts, will commence shortly. It’s important for people like me to have hobbies.