Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where I Start Writing About Books and then Veer Off Into a Bunch of Other Topics

Sometime amidst all the other stuff I have to do today, I want to go to the library. The girls and I went faithfully at least once a week all summer long until we went on vacation, forgot to return a bunch of materials, and then accrued a rather large fine exacerbated by the vicious cycle of shame and dread of paying the fine, which only made it grow. Significantly.

I have to add that library fines are a character flaw of mine. One summer when I was home from college, the Wheaton Public Library called me and said that if I didn't pay my fine immediately, they were going to have to contact the police. "The POLICE? Are you kidding me?" I asked, alarmed. "Not paying library fines is a serious offense, Alice," the librarian said. And I believed her because not only is she a librarian, but everyone knows that the Wheaton police show up en masse if someone loses their bike or if there's a fire in a wastebasket at Wheaton College. Or as Julie says, "Weapons drawn if someone's golf bag gets stolen."

It wasn't until later that I found out that my mom put the librarian up to the whole thing to teach me a lesson. I'm sure after that lady made the call, she and all the other librarians fell down laughing in glee over terrorizing an innocent college student. My relationship with them has been a long and complicated one anyway. A few years ago, Darren and I were at a Nissan dealership, buying a car. The owner went away to run our credit and when he came back he said, "You've got great credit except for the fact that Alice owes the Wheaton Public Library." To this day, I am still not sure if my mom pulled some strings to make that happen.

Anyway, I finally paid our library fine here because Lucy discovered Judith Schachner's Skippyjon Jones books at school and was dying to check some out. Skippyjon Jones is a hyperactive Siamese kitten, according to the School Library Journal, "whose head and ears are too big for his body, and whose imagination is too intense for his mama." That might be getting a little too close to home, but that's OK.

Also, I think it's part of the girls' stealth plot in getting us to buy them some sort of animal. We had been talking about a West Highland terrier, but now they're leaning toward a Siamese cat that they can name "D.C." after this, of course. I started to do a little research about them and found a breeder near us. Actually, I believe it's called a "cattery," and I now may have a new favorite word. This cattery is called "Siamese Royalty," which should have tipped me off right away. I was talking to my friend Christy, who is a vet tech, about it on Sunday.

"They don't say how much the cats cost, but they want $100 deposit," I said. "I'm hoping then that the actual cat costs about seventy-five cents. Do you think that sounds about right?"

"Well," Christy said carefully, "some clients of ours just bought a Siamese cat for $850." Eight.hundred.and.fifty.dollars? She went on, "Actually, they bought two, because cats like each other's company, so they spent $1,700." Seventeen hundred dollars on cats that have a tendency to run out in the street and get hit by a car, so splat, there just went eight hundred fifty bucks? Is their last name Romanov?

I told her, "If I came up to Darren and said I wanted to spend that amount of money on cats, he would tell me, 'Actually, we can take that money and put it down as a deposit for your stay here.'"

Back to books. Since my library exile, I've been rereading P.D. James books, mostly because I'm so sad that the Adam Dalgliesh series that she has been writing since 1962 has come to an end. What am I going to ask for for Christmas from now on? I'm revisiting my favorite (from the 80s), Original Sin, about murder in the publishing industry, Death in Holy Orders, The Murder Room, The Lighthouse, and then the final one, which I got last Christmas, The Private Patient. I want her to keep going, but she did end the series perfectly and, after all, if you can't retire when you're a Dame of the British Empire and almost 90 years old, when can you?

When September rolls around, I like to start reading darker, Gothic stuff. This is when I usually pull Charlotte Bronte off the shelf, because what says Fall more than keeping your crazy wife locked up in the attic until she burns the house down around you? I supposed I could reread Shirley, The Professor, or my other fav, Villette. I also love Daphne duMaurier and pretty much everything she's written. Those are good for this time of year, though I don't reread Jamaica Inn very much because it's the single scariest book I have ever read, including John Harwood's The Ghost Writer, which I read in one dark, stormy night, and it scared me so badly I couldn't go down in my basement for weeks.

But now that I can go to the library with a clear conscience, I think I am looking for something new. Earlier this spring and summer I was on a big kick of reading Indian novels, but I'm in England with P.D. James now, and I'd like to stay there. So, think gloomy, rainy, spooky, and people wearing big cloaks, and give me recommendations if you have them. I suppose I'll take New England if that's what you've got, too.

Maybe there's one where Skippyjon Jones finds a body in the library. Then we'd all be happy. As long as we return it in two weeks.


Juliet said...

Too funny about your history at the library in Wheaton. One must always return their books on time. We forgot to pick up a book I had gotten for my mother and we had to pay a whopping fine of $.20 to the Talcott Free Library here in Rockton. It was only two days late.

Thanks again for more reading material. I will check out the Dalgliesh books.

P.S. Concerning the cat issue...that type of cat is not only costly, but very temperamental. Bob and I took care of a pair of Siamese cats, Barney and Bathsheba for a week. Now there's a story for you. Very interesting.

Kacie said...

returning library books is SUCH a pain. Just like returning movies was, until they created netflix and blockbuster online. Why don't they do that with books? Just mail it in when you're done and they send you the next one.