Monday, June 1, 2009

...what I was trying to do with my anthropology was first to get a job in a halfway decent university...

...and then get tenure. This was a marxist analysis of my situation but it was correct. Along the way, of course, I was going to be adding to the world's knowledge of man, no doubt. But there was already a lot of that, to put it mildly. Possibly there was enough.
-Norman Rush, Mating

With an upcoming vacation later this month, I went to The Book Trader this weekend with the mission of finding a good beach read. As with movies once in the movie store, it took a long time before I could think of a good book that I really wanted to read. Eventually I remembered Salman Rushdie's interview on NPR about his latest, The Enchantress of Florence. To my surprise, not one of his books lined The Book Trader's fiction section. Still browsing around the "R" authors in disappointment, I picked up a book by Norman Rush, titled Mating, whose central character is a woman anthropologist recovering from a disintegrated doctoral thesis in Botswana who is supposed to find herself infatuated with some hyperidealistic cult founder in the south African jungle. At first, I was skeptical about a male author's ability to write from the first person perspective of a rather introspective female character, but the page-browsing I did (and my reading thus far) was convincing enough. So in a sort of parodying twist of fate after not finding Salman Rushdie, I walked out with Norman Rush. With 460+ pages and small type, it might be a long haul, but the comical and self-conscious style with academic terminology of the first 50 pages should make it as much fun as interesting.

btw, The Book Trader, a used-books store in Old City, is definitely one of my top 5 favorite spots in Philly. Not that I have any tour-guide credentials, as I don't live in the city, but I do love book stores. With 2 floors of crammed shelves overflowing with books and boxes of books strewn on the floor still to be filed, I'm like Paris Hilton at the Mall of America, or like a trick-or-treater at a chocolate factory. I'm just in awe of all the browsing to be done. While books are categorized by subject and genre, the poor organization within them makes the place like a gold mine where you could find several copies of the same book on different shelves, or serendipitously come across something you didn't expect, like a 1951 travel account of Morocco by Rom Landau, or a 1901 print of George Eliot (or Norman Rush instead of Salman Rushdie, for that matter). Fortunately, I have the discipline to keep my spending under $15, and to remind myself that I have too much clutter at home, that I can only read about one book at a time, and that I can always come back.