Sunday, January 16, 2011

Do I Want That Copy of "Travels With My Aunt"?

Maybe it was last year, or the year before, when I wrote about my love for the book "Subways are for Sleeping" by Edmund G. Love, about the every day creativity of New York City's homeless population in surviving. I discovered the book most likely out of curiosity after I had put it on hold and picked it up at the Valencia library. It stayed with me through all the time I spent at College of the Canyons. I checked it out often. I decided one day, some time after I had graduated, that after all it had been through with me, all the times that I read it, that it belonged with me. So I told the library I had lost that copy (I knew which one it was because it was a greenish cover, while the only other copy from another branch was an aqua blue), paid $34, and it was mine. I still have it, in a stack of favorite books that includes "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" by Cory Doctorow, "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck, "The Music of Your Life" by John Rowell, and now "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski" by Adam Bertocci. "A Week at the Airport" by Alain de Botton, which I haven't finished reading yet, and which I bought from today, will soon join that stack because I want my next book to feel just like how de Botton writes. I don't intend to copy his style exactly, but that's part of my research, to see how others handle book-length reportage, since I love it more than fiction, even though this book is going to be fiction.

Recently, I've become enraptured again by "Travels with My Aunt" by Graham Greene, which was published in 1969. In 1972, it became a movie starring Maggie Smith, which I checked out of the library yesterday in widescreen, on VHS tape. I must be one of the very few in the nation now who still owns a VCR. I was planning to finish reading the novel today, in order to watch the movie properly tomorrow morning, but it's late now and it's been a busy latter half of the day with a few errands.

Same situation as "Subways are for Sleeping": Do I want this copy, too? Do I want to pay however much it would be after I said it was lost? I think this is the same copy I checked out last time, but that was the first time. This is the second time. It's not the 13th, 14th, 15th or 16th time. I feel a kinship with this copy, but really not as closely as with the other book.

It's not a question to be answered by the time I return this hardcover copy, which is pink, with illustrations of a bird inside a curved glass encasement, next to a black urn with a dahlia sprouting out of the top, the dahlia being the main character's favorite flower, which he maintains in his garden. I answered the question a few days before. Yes, I love this copy. But I think it's because of the sense of discovery of this story, and that I love it for bringing this story to me. But it's not the same as the deep connection I have with my acquired copy of "Subways are for Sleeping." Not only did I feel that I had truly discovered a writer like Edmund G. Love to enjoy, but he kept providing me with more to explore each time I read the book. And how unassuming that green cover is, just with the title on the spine and "Love" below it, I know what's in the book every time, but I always get that thrill every time I pull it from the stack. This copy of "Travels with My Aunt" is slightly more obtrusive. I may get the same thrill, but it would only be from the words. I don't mind that this book apparently began its library life in 1988. I don't mind the aging smells coming from it. It's part of why I do and will forever love reading, for smells like that, which also reveal its history, maybe just a bit of each person who reads this particular copy. But it doesn't feel like it will fit as well in my collection as that copy of "Subways are for Sleeping" does.

So I went to the other day and ordered the Penguin Classics edition from 2004. I can begin my own history with that copy. And, save for hopefully a passionate female book lover, it will never pass through anyone else's hands. It will be mine.

Sam Mendes: 007's New Boss

I was watching Annette Bening in "Mother and Child," marveling not only at the seamlessness of storytelling esteemed writer/director Rodrigo Garcia embodies in his films (and why I was stupid to give up "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her" when I was getting rid of an excess number of DVDs), but also at the gradations of Bening's career. I realized how actually over the top her Caroline Burnham was in "American Beauty", which I knew was the point when I first saw the film at then-Muvico Paradise 24 in Davie, Florida (It's Cinemark now, though I've learned that that company has not changed any of the Egyptian theming, and it's nice that one thing I remember from living in South Florida has not changed drastically in the years since I've become a former resident), but I didn't know the extent of it.

And then, by extension, I got to thinking about Sam Mendes, the director of "American Beauty" and one of my favorite filmmakers (Garcia is another, and Barbra Streisand is probably the third). I'm still amazed, and very happy, that he's directing the next Bond film. It's pure joy to me, and one of the personal benefits of having been a Bond fan all this time. Some say that the Bond director is just the worker bee, just the one to answer to the producers, but with Mendes, that seems to be just a quarter true. With Mendes, and with his prestigious filmography (including "The Road to Perdition" and "Revolutionary Road"), I imagine this film will be an equal partnership, and Mendes will no doubt make his mark on this next Bond film. It will be in his style.