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Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Bonanza

I bought 19 books the other day. I would have bought a lot more except I was on my bike and about 15 kilometers from home. There was a book fair in Rocafort that I couldn’t pass up. All of the books were 1€ so this substantial increase in my library here in Spain came at the amazing price of 19€. As I humped home with my swag my left hand kept going numb from the pressure of holding the bag tight against the handlebar. I should have stopped along the way for a coffee or something but that would have meant thinking about how much I was going to suffer the rest of the way home as I tried to enjoy my coffee. I take things like stopping for a coffee very seriously so I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good experience anguishing over the second part of hauling my new books back to Ruzafa. I butched up and made it home without stopping.

Then I had to carry my bike and the books up the three flights of stairs to my apartment. Is it lazier to suffer through one trip just to avoid making two trips? I could have comfortably carried my bike up first and then made a separate trip just for the books but I struggled up with my awkward load, once again just wanting to get it all over with. Had I been wearing my heart rate monitor I think it would have shown that this was the most difficult part of my day of exercise thus far. You people with elevators don’t know what you’re missing.

It was worth it. After all, great literature requires some suffering.

I picked up some stuff in English, Spanish, and French. I picked up a nice copy of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run which I read back when I was in my early 20’s. I don’t remember being affected in any way by the book but I figure that I owe it another reading. I began reading it yesterday—this is only the second book I have attempted to read in English since I arrived in Spain over three years ago. So far I have to say that I am underwhelmed. I can’t imagine anyone would rate John Updike among their favorites. I have read perhaps dozens of his short stories in The New Yorker over the years and couldn’t tell you much about any of them except they almost always involve white, Brahmin-class East Coast college professors. I will get back with a more full account of Rabbit, Run if I can finish it. I would certainly rather be reading something in Spanish.

Most of the books aren’t intended for my consumption. Most of the English stuff is to give away to friends learning the language. This covers at least half of my new collection. I picked up a Harry Potter novel in French that I intend to read as I have never read anything in this series in any language. I bought three travel books in English: Bill Byrson’s Notes from a Small Island, another about Cuba, and another about South America written by a Chilean author that I would much rather read in Spanish. Also new to my collection are a couple of Isabel Allende novels in Spanish. I don’t really care for her but the price was right and her stuff is easy to read. It looks like I have my reading cut out for me for the next few weeks at least.

I have a few sources of used books here in my neighborhood. There is a really small used book shop on the corner of Calle Cadiz and Calle Denia. The man there has a couple shelves outside the store offering books for 1€. CafĂ© Ubik is another place I troll regularly although more and more its selection of used books is shrinking and being replaced by new books. Used books are definitely harder to come by in Europe than in America where any thrift store anywhere in the country is a gold mine for cheap books. I just like having lots of books around me, the more the better. Books act as insulation against stupidity which is a state we must constantly labor to avoid.

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