Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Slept With 12,775 Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

According to a new biography never to be published, over the course of fifty-two years of reading in bed (since age 6), I've slept with 12,775 books. Fifty-two years = 245.7 books a year = a book every day and a half. I keep my optometrist on retainer.

I did so shamelessly, with little regard for the books as individuals. When I get an itch, I reach for a bitch of a book. 'Might as well face it, I’m addicted to livre.

I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t remember many names; their title-pages are a complete blank.

As a kid, I went through books like colds go through Kleenex. Every evening, I took a Hardy Boy or Tom Swift Jr. under the covers with me and read with a flashlight. I’m not sure which is more troubling: that I took adolescent boys into my bed, fantasized about playing precocious pediatric with Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, or that I found Egbert the Elephant attractive. I guess I’m pantextual.

I used to keep a little black book of books. When I got married, my wife insisted that I get rid of it. When we divorced, I was frantic; I wanted it back: Memories...of the colophon in my mind, musty, water-damp stained memories, of the way we word.

I recently had an opportunity to sit down and talk to myself, I, Boswell, to my Johnson (pardon me).

SJG: What do you look for in a book?
Words. A picture every now and then is nice. But mostly words. I once got a book with all blank pages. It was a gift. Can you believe it? What was I supposed to do, write the words myself? The book’s title was “Dairy.” The leaves were all milky white; a conceptual work, I guess. I do, however, suffer from Adult Onset Dyslexia so maybe I transposed a couple of letters, who knows?

SJG: What’s your type?
Verdana. I love nudes – sans serif is a total turn-on. But really, serif, sans serif – I could care less. Reality check: When you turn out the lights, all books look alike so I don’t sweat the issue, though actually reading with the lights out is trĂ©s tricque-y (pardon my french!). Speaking of which, I once read Derrida’s Of Grammatology in the full light of day and when I was finished I was completely in the dark. What is this guy talking about? Can somebody please deconstruct deconstructionism?

SJG: Do you prefer thin or fat?
All sizes. While I appreciate a shapely book as much as the next guy, I prefer one that says something to me – preferably, a come-hither “read me, Big Boy.” So size, in this case, is irrelevant – though I possess a pair of retinas that must be seen to be believed – strictly cheesecake rods and cones.

SJG: Do you take a book to bed with your glasses on or off?
I keep my glasses on. It’s a fetish, weird, I know but I’ve been doing it for so long that if don’t have my glasses on I can’t read a damned thing. Besides, they make me look smarter than I actually am and this impresses the hell out of books, who, at the end of the day, want what we all want: to be read and appreciated for what’s inside – but not by an idiot.

SJG: Leather or cloth binding?
Me, or the book?

SJG: Any last thoughts?
Yes. I’d like to set the record straight. Despite what Joan Collins claims, I did not throw one of her books on the bed, rip the dust jacket off, and read all the way to the climax seven times in one day, leaving it in haut deshabille, leaves limp with exhaustion.

Contrary to popular belief, I do have standards.

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