Gawk

“No, I haven’t read it,” the bookstore owner said from behind the counter, peering at the book in my hand: “Less,” by Andrew Sean Greer. By his tone, it was evident he did not intend to either. Too best-seller-y perhaps, too bright the colors on its cover. To be fair, the cover was bright, even for me; its neon hues gawkishly out of place in the tiny lumber bookstore on the Main Street, the only street, of Ouray, Colorado.

But I picked it anyway, returning my second choice “The Book Thief” to its corner, under disapproving eyes. I was in the mood for a gawkish summer.

“Eat, Pray, Love” is probably a bad comparison, but it kept coming to mind as I read “Less,” which is about an about-to-be-old, single, gay writer who thinks he’s failed at life and so embarks on a trip around the world to avoid the thought.

Of course, the trip becomes the journey that is the destination that is opened eyes to life. The colors on the cover presage it all.

But, there is a but.

The book is great. Funny, very funny. It boasts a Pulitzer. And it very well should. Above a sweet display of some of its words.

Read it before the days of summer are done. You can probably buy it everywhere, just look for neon on a rack.

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Utmost Hapiness

I knew Jennifer Egan was speaking at Greenlight Bookstore on Fulton Street last night, but that’s not why I went. Sure, it was good to see what a Pulitzer Prize winning author looks like, but that’s not why I went.

I went to get a book I’d been waiting on for a year. It had come out in paperback a while ago, but last night was the night I needed it definitively in my hands.

There was a crowd packed right up to the door, which I had to both ignore and sift through to find my book, not on the alphabet shelves but stacked upon the table of valuable reads. I wonder if Jennifer thought me rude as I grabbed a book not hers from the big center table and mazed back to the cashier. Nah. Jennifer is cool.

Plus, book desperation is a legitimate cause of the uncouth.

The book in my hands is signed by its author, the reclusive Arundhati Roy, whose “God of Small Things” landed in my lap in Kerala, the place where its story is set. Circumstantially, Roy became my favorite. The more so because there was just the one, the Man Booker Prize-winning one.

Now, the book in my hands makes two. “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” is not new. But of course it lasted a while in its three-pound-hardcover-version, prohibitive to the laptop-baby-water-bottle-carrying-mom-backs of the book-buying-world.

The book in my hands is signed by the hands of its author. It is no longer on the big wooden table in front of Jennifer Egan’s microphone. It is on the candlelit counter where I sit, alone, to begin to read.