Saturday, February 23, 2013

When did books become a burden?

When did books become a burden?

As I sit in my bedroom every surface (even the bed) is cluttered with books. There are the books I have promised to read for various reasons (the author is coming to town, a friend has passed it on) and the ones I couldn’t resist picking up in a world where hardcovers can cost as little as a dollar and paperbacks, a mere quarter. And did I mention my kindle, crammed with classics?

Such excess has led to disdain. I avoid looking at the volumes that just a short time ago I was dying to read. There are simply too many of them. This is modern overload.

Contrast this with my years in Spain. I waited impatiently for the January sales in the oddly named “Happy Books” when I could pick up popular fiction and classics IN ENGLISH for half price. I read everything from Wilke Collins to the latest  novels. It was such a pleasure to search the books for something I might want to read. I also sent myself boxes of books from the US for more serious reading (back in the pre-Amazon days).

There was the summer I spent in Capcanes in the Priorat, a town so small even newspapers in any language weren’t available. I blew through every piece of reading material I had with me in a week and I had several more weeks to go. My friend Linda came to visit and brought a suitcase full of books. I am still grateful!

Back in Barcelona I worked as a reader in two publishing houses, Ediciones B and Grijalbo Mondadori (thanks Jill for getting me started there). There was a time when I had read every popular fiction book (before they came out). In those days too, every work submitted by any author was read and reported on. I read anywhere from 2-4 books a week. I was introduced to two genres- crime, which probably led me to write crime fiction, and biography which was surprisingly engaging.

By the time I left Europe, FNAC ( the French chain) appeared and lots of fiction in English became available. When I left behind my library of hundreds of volumes I was hard pressed to give them away.

So what happened? Where does it end? Is it social media that sucks up our time or simple overload? Everyone has a voice and there is no discrimination of what’s good or not. It just keeps coming at you.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

THe New Nemesis and a poem. "Snow Clues"

The New Nemesis

No more orange alerts (for the time being at least). Our new enemy is now the purple and blue weather maps showing swirling storms with names- the latest of which is Nemo. I sit mesmerized and frightened by the massive weather systems conjoining and wreaking havoc. What’s worse than the actual storm though is the hype, the constant barrage of updates and alerts. When it comes down to the real pictures of weathermen or women standing in the snow, reality sets in and here in Buffalo, at least, it’s just one more winter day.

The hype has its effects. The day before the storm I went to the supermarket around lunchtime where the few cashiers (not expecting this) were overwhelmed. What’s up? asked the customer ahead of me. “It’s the storm, man,” was the answer.

My first year back in Buffalo, the snow still a mystery after decades away, I actually showed up at work on a snow day. Nothing happened. Of course, I’m glad to have a warning but I don’t need the fear. Winter is turning into anxiety and that’s even though I was here for the 2 major blizzards- 77 and 86- no names just the year they happened to distinguish them.


Were there no cars

We walk the winter white world

our prints merge

with tiny animal paws,

bird wings

to create

snow clues.

Sleighs cross


the horses shake

the bells of Robert Frost.

Sparkle white


Snow sleep

the most alluring of all.