I have never understood the attraction of obscenely expensive wristwatches. When I was leaving home to attend the university, my father gave me a very functional Timex watch. Back then all watches (most?) had to be wound each day. Later self-winding and eventually electric and digital watches became available. But no matter the features, a decent quality watch that would make sure you didn’t miss dinner or the first ten minutes of a popular movie, could still be purchased for only a few bucks.
True. That $19.95 Timex might not last too many years—the mechanism would run down, the wrist band discolor, and that skinny second hand might snap off—but in the event of a disaster you didn’t have to take the watch in for an expensive repair … you just had to buy a new one.
I once tried to calculate how many lifetimes it would require before it was cheaper to buy a Rolex than to just keep buying a new Timex every year or so. Of course, being retired I haven’t worn a wristwatch for twenty years now.
I’ve had a quirky relationship with books too.
Back when my Dad gave me that first Timex I had all of my belongings stashed into three orange boxes, one old valise, and a cardboard guitar case. Four years later when I packed up for graduate school in Missouri I had only added two boxes. Why so bleak? First, I was getting through university by working several less-than-academic jobs: raising rats, weeding gardens, shampooing carpets, ghosting term papers, ironing shirts. I was a sophomore before I gave in to an urge and spent a dime on an orange soda.
This also meant I sold back most of my school books and, being an English major, only retained original sources in my major.
Later on I discovered that I was schlepping books around the country, providing them with a comfy place to reside, heat, air conditioning, even maid service. Then I realized I might never need a specific book ever again and even if I did, it generally could be repurchased for far less money that the projected upkeep, so I stopped keeping books that I had already read.
Fifty years later I can only recall a dozen titles I might have had to repurchase. Nowadays I’m gradually replacing those ink and paper books with digital versions I can actually read. Still, with my habits of not saving books and efforts to digitize my library, I’ve still got several hundred enticing titles lining the bookshelves in my library … and not a lot of time to read them.
Remember George Carlin … books are stuff too.
But this month I intend to engage my little gray cells with at least twenty new titles selected from my digital lists and one or two from my library shelves.
- The Caretaker — A. X. Ahmad
- Indian Killer — Sherman Alexie
- Shirley — Charlotte Brontë
- America Is Not the Heart — Elaine Castillo
- The Public Burning — Robert Coover
- A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself — Peter Ho Davies
- A Pair of Blue Eyes — Thomas Hardy
- The Line of Beauty — Alan Hollinghurst
- Boyhood Island: My Struggle Book 3 — Karl Ove Knausgârd
- Readopolis — Bertrand Laverdure
- The Year of the Comet — Sergei Lebedev
- The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi — Alessandro Manzoni
- The Domino Boys — D. M. Mitchell
- The Last Rectangle and other Short Stories — Akram Najjar
- Under the Undala Trees — Chinelo Okparanta
- The Eighth Detective — Alex Pavesi
- The Belles of Bruges — Georges Rodenbach
- The Warden — Anthony Trollope
- Borne: A Novel — Jeff VanderMeer
- Pot-Bouille — Émile Zola
Assuming I complete this list with time to spare, I’ve been considering these titles to help fill in the time:
- The Sleepwalkers — Hermann Broch
- Demons — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- The Good Soldier Svejk — Jaroslav Hasek