28 February 2007

I joined a book club! And a website.

I haven't belonged to a book club since I was in high school, and that was a right irregular outfit driven more by the snacks our faculty sponsor brought to morning meetings than by actual books. So one of the first things I did when I moved is sign up for a book group through a networking site I visit a lot.

The book they picked (and had free copies of, luckily) was Grant Stoddard's WORKING STIFF: THE MISADVENTURES OF AN ACCIDENTAL SEXPERT. Stoddard is a British guy who moved to the US for love and fell into a customer service job at the highbrow sex magazine Nerve.com, where he was forced to try all kinds of crazy things for his column "I Did It For Science." (To give a relatively innocuous example, for one column he flew to southern California, interviewed porn stars and had a walk-on role in a porn movie.) The whole book is laced with Stoddard's dry humor and his disbelief at being regarded as a sex guru just because he was willing to try almost anything for his editor, and only much later thought, "I'm developing a bit of a reputation, aren't I?" If I ever meet him, I would like to ask him whether, in fact, there was anything he would not do for science.

Maybe it was just my imagination, but when I was reading this on the subway yesterday I felt rather more disapproving glances than usual. Okay, the title is kind of a dirty joke, but the cover isn't inappropriate to carry around... right? It's not a book for kids, surely, but it's not as if there are pictures (although Stoddard is bare-chested on the back cover... horrors!) Maybe they were just staring at me alternately cringing and laughing with each new scrape Stoddard got himself into. I don't think I've ever felt the urge to censor my reading on public transit before. Then again, it's not every day an "accidental sexpert" writes a memoir.

I'm passing it along via BookMooch, something I finally signed up for after hearing on blogs like A Work In Progress about this never-ending parade of free books. Of course, I don't have much to be mooched at the moment, after the big pre-move weed-out, but I've now given away two books and have one on its way. I tried Paperback Swap and found it a little dictatorial (what with the, "Send it in 24 hours or we'll cancel it and slap you on the wrist" policy); BookMooch looks much more realistic for those of us who don't want to go to the post office every day.

20 February 2007

Quotable Forster

Well, it isn't exactly quotable, but I enjoyed this section from A Room With A View:
He became self-conscious and kept glancing round to see if they were observed. His courage had gone.


"Up to now I have never kissed you."

She was as scarlet as if he had put the thing most indelicately.

"No--more you have," she stammered.

"Then I ask you--may I now?"

"Of course, you may, Cecil. You might before. I can't run at you, you know."

At that supreme moment he was conscious of nothing but absurdities. Her reply was inadequate. She gave such a business-like lift to her veil. As he approached her he found time to wish that he could recoil. As he touched her, his gold pince-nez became dislodged and was flattened between them.

Such was the embrace. He considered, with truth, that it had been a failure. Passion should believe itself irresistible. It should forget civility and consideration and all the other curses of a refined nature. Above all, it should never ask for leave where there is a right of way. Why could he not do as any labourer or navvy--nay, as any young man behind the counter would have done? He recast the scene. Lucy was standing flowerlike by the water, he rushed up and took her in his arms; she rebuked him, permitted him and revered him ever after for his manliness. For he believed that women revere men for their manliness.

19 February 2007

One resolution gone decently; others to follow?

In January I resolved not to buy any more books before I moved. Now that the move is complete (in the "All my boxes are in the state" sense, not in the "I can have guests over" sense) I can say that... I failed, because I have bought books, but I also got rid of more than I kept.

Most of my move was accomplished in the last week of February and the first two weeks of March. Before that I bought six books -- the Janice Dickinson one I blogged about, and five more at the employee bookstore where I was working at the time. (What can I say? The discount was killer.) At the same time, I left eight books on the swap shelf at the office library and returned several more galleys I'd borrowed from the free table while I worked there. I even left a book in Philadelphia's 30th Street Train Station, and sincerely hope someone is out there enjoying it. Since moving I have bought... one book. Either I am becoming more fiscally sensible, or the local branch of the New York Public Library is doing its job.

(I'd actually vote for the latter, because I currently have seven books out and a load of requests in the system. There's nothing like stopping in to pick up a request and finding five with your name on them. And my bookshelves look so dignified!)

I do foresee at least one more book purchase this month, but this one's my own fault: I borrowed the Anthony Lane collection Nobody's Perfect from my friend B. back in October, and I spilled coffee on it during a trip to IKEA. I should blame the discount manufacturers' commodification of lifestyle, but I am a klutz, and I'm going to buy him a new copy and keep the stained (but otherwise un-annotated) one for my library. B., if you're reading this, sorry.

One of my other resolutions? To update more regularly. I swear, this time's the charm.