Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Sea and Its Endless Damn Meanings

Quite some time ago (last spring maybe) I made the mistake of going to the Strand sidewalk store where, for $9.99, you could fill an entire bag with books. And not like a little plastic grocery bag either. A real shopping bag. So being a sucker for the idea of cheap books, of course I had to go "get my money's worth." It was a sidewalk sale though so the selection was, shall we say, eclectic. And I'm nothing if not impulsive when it comes to buying books so I end up picking up things like 1950s surveys of French architecture (yellowed pages, loose binding) and 1940s histories of the St. Lawrence (pages crumbling as often seems to be the case with those WWII-era books). Mind, I have no particular interest in either French architecture or the St. Lawrence. The French architecture book has a fun little note though, written in pencil on the title : "Cairo City Hotel $1 per nght. Athens. Comfortable. !! 2 hr. walk from Acropolis." Fun because I think it indicates my book has been to Athens. In different handwriting, also on the title page, it says, "Kelly Edey June 28, 1957 Wells." I love owning books that have their own story. It's like a double identity where the book tells a story but also has one.

Anyway, these book sales also bring out my bad habit of judging a book by its cover. We all do it. Or mostly do it. That's why publishing companies spend so much time on them. But I still tend to feel like I should know better. Passage to Juneau ended up in my bag because of it's cover. I don't even particularly like the cover design. I think the layout and text make it a bit static and boring and are not particularly evocative of the subject. But I love the photo used, taken by a man with the vaguely colorful seeming name of Macduff Everton.

So I have this book, and about 6 months ago I began reading it. I always have a book that I keep in my purse and read on the subway and this one got the nod. I failed to account for (or realize) the fact that it was fairly dense reading and perhaps not best suited for 8:30 AM commutes. So half the time I just didn't read at all. But I couldn't replace it as my subway book because I knew if I tried reading it at home, where I could do other things instead, I would never finish it. And I did want to finish it because I knew nothing about Vancouver (the person, not the city) or the Northwest Indian tribes. And in places it was really quite interesting and forced me to alter the way I had been thinking about things. Which is what you want in a book like this. But oh was it a slog. As of 10:00 PM today, I am finished and I think my next subway book will be much lighter reading. More on this book later, I think.

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