So, about a month back I bolted into Barnes and Noble for two books. “Just the two,” I reminded myself, hand against the door. Then something went wrong.
Perhaps you’re not surprised.
I stood before the cashier, willing my heart to stop thumping. “Please don’t tell me the cost. Don’t. Just take the card.”
I slipped it to her and looked away, but she gave a gentle cough and announced the total. When I arrived home I put the two first books—the guilty books—in exile on the dining room table, upright, so they could see what they’d done as I shelved the others.
What had happened at the store—plunge at the abyss—happened when I stood before one table of books near the cashier and somehow decided that as I’d gone mad on the third floor, collecting seven unwieldy books rather than two, why not succumb completely and utterly for one last book on the first floor. In a flurry that could not have lasted more than two seconds—two!—I thumped not one but three more books on my pile (boom, boom, smash) and dashed away, eyes almost closed to ensure nothing else desperate occurred. Oy.
Three days ago I stumbled upon one of my thumpee books. A slim one, she was shelved discreetly between two larger volumes. I frowned in unrecognition and flipped her over to read the blurb. Oooh. I put her down again; I’m not in the market for a book set in totalitarian Europe right now. But the words lingered in my mind…at work, on the street, back home.
Finally last night I returned to my shelf and looked the book square in the face, as one must in these situations.
“You’re not what I’m looking for right now,” I told the book.
I cleared my throat and picked the book up. “See, it says your author is the winner of a Nobel Prize. I can’t stand half the winners.”
Still the book held her silence.
I flipped her over again and sighed. “Don’t get your hopes up now. I’m just taking a quick peek. A little dip. Not reading you, per se.”
I fluffed the couch cushions and unwillingly opened her covers. Boom—not two minutes later I’m simultaneously captured by the story, the character, the mood and also scrambling blindly for a pen, dog-earing pages and somewhere in the remotest part of my mind thinking, “gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, she’s so good….”
It’s Herta Muller’s The Appointment. I’m 68 pages in (–it’s a short book, some 214 pages). Here’s the wicked blurb:
“I’ve been summoned. Thursday, ten sharp.” Thus begins a day in the life of a young factory worker during Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime. Her crime? Sewing notes into the linings of men’s suits bound for Italy. “Marry me,” the notes say, with her name and address. As she rides the tram to her interrogation, she thinks over the events and people of her life under terror. In her distraction she misses her stop and finds herself alone on an unfamiliar street. And what she discovers there makes her fear of the interrogation pale in comparison.
And her bio: Born in Romania in 1953, Herta Muller lost her job as a teacher and suffered repated threats after refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu’s secret police. She succeeded in emigrating in 1987 and now lives in Berlin. She won the IMPAC Award for her novel The Land of Green Plums, and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.
Sigh. Accursed woman, she is rocking… 🙂