Last night, I went to bed early because I was tired. I wanted a full night’s sleep. I made myself a mug of hot sweet tea and a plate of buttery toast, and I went to bed. It was a good plan, and if only I had followed through with it, I would have done the right thing, but of course, as usual, I couldn’t.
I meet this crowd of drunkards every now and then. Infrequently, but sometimes, we meet and one of us recommends a book he hasn’t read yet. We’ve had The Kite Runner, and In Cold Blood and (perhaps most disturbingly) Atomised. A couple of weeks ago, we met to talk about A Bloody Canvas, which we all agreed was a heap of shite, though none of us could possibly have known this in advance.
Now, when I say that we meet to talk about these books, I use the term in its loosest possible sense. Our meetings tend to be a fluid interchange of personal abuse, set against a rancorous personal history, among some members, of rivalry, bitterness, murder, wrongful imprisonment and football. With drink. I use the term meeting loosely.
I was wondering, throughout these encounters filed with bile, rage and suppressed homicidal urges — did I mention that I was a bit of a newcomer to these people? — what book to recommend.
I thought of everything by Salman Rushdie because I love everything he ever wrote, including the crap. And I thought of something by Flann O’Brien because, like Rushdie, I love and remember every single word he ever wrote. I thought of Cormac McCarthy, the towering giant of modern American fiction, and it seemed to me that the border trilogy would suit the lads very well, until I remembered that they’d never manage to stay sober through all of it. Shit. There’s Annie Proulx, of course, who writes the most perfectly-formed crystalline prose of our generation. An inch deep, a mile wide and flows uphill from Texas. Dear God, I wish I had that gift.
I finally decided on Falling Man by Don DeLillo, and that’s what I settled down to start last night, with my mug of hot sweet tea and plate of buttery toast. Good. And bad. That’s what I ended up finishing last night at four in the morning because I couldn’t put it down, and there’s always that feeling, as the birds start to twitch and you’re on the last forty pages: will I just put it down now, and finish it tomorrow? And you answer yourself with the answer you already know: fuck it!
I finished Falling Man and it’s been with me all day. I’ll read it again maybe tomorrow or next week, but I’ll definitely read it again. In these days of Bush and Cheney, I can’t shake off his talk about the place where America used to be.
Musically: Tonight, I ordered Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. It should arrive soon.
There are people I’d like to share it with.