Burn the House Down

davidsedarisOn Wednesday, I ushered for a talk given by David Sedaris (author of Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and most recently When You are Engulfed in Flames) in which he detailed his hilarious personal experiences, primarily in France and Australia. Unfortunately I missed quite a bit of the show because it was a full house (the ushers were dismissed later than usual and my friend and I had to leave the show early in order to get a good spot in line for the book signing afterwards). However, Sedaris was outrageously funny yet also insightful during the part of the talk that I was able to see.

A memorable moment for me was when Sedaris talked about stove tops as a metaphor for life. He recalled a conversation with a friend in which the friend tells him that each person has four burners on their stove top: Family, Friends, Work, and Health. In order to be successful, a person will usually have to turn off one burner. The really successful turn off two. For Sedaris, those two burners were Health and Family. 

Since that night, I have been thinking a lot about my stove burners. What will I have to give up in order to achieve my goals? Although I continue to hope, I don’t really believe in having it all. There are too many examples to the contrary. So I guess the question becomes an impossible one: “What can I learn to live without?” Maybe the smartest people are the ones who answer, “Success,” but I don’t know many people who would actually go through with cutting that ambition out of their lives. I know that I tend to ignore Health until I get sick. Friends and Family also flicker occasionally when life gets too hectic. I worry that one day I’ll turn around and realise that I have nothing but Work to keep me warm at night.

The best humor tells us something true about ourselves. Even through the laughter, we learn to ask questions previously unthought of and start to think about our lives in more meaningful ways.

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 Which stove burner have you neglected lately?

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Bookaholics Anonymous

I have a confession to make. I am inexplicably obsessed with the musty smell of old papers bound up in leather covers. I love holding a book in my hand, flipping through its creamy pages, and feeling history beneath my fingertips. However environmentally unfriendly it is, the physicality of owning a book is an experience that cannot be replaced by e-books or the Kindle.

But then again, I am a bookaholic. My desk in my dorm room is covered with tall stacks of books and my book shelf is completely filled with anthologies, reference texts, poetry, plays, and fiction (and a DVD collection). I also have two bookcases at home that contain the rest of my growing book collection. And yet I keep buying more and more books like an addiction. 

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This weekend, I went to the LA Times Festival of Books and bought The World According to Garp (John Irving), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon), About a Boy (Nick Hornby), and I’m a Stranger Here Myself (Bill Bryson). 

I also bought a very nice copy of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court from a booth that sold rare and fine books. It’s really nicely bound with gold lettering and beautiful script on each page. I was also looking at a leatherbound copy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but it was unfortunately out of my price range. 

(Perhaps even more exciting though was the fact that I got to see Kristin Chenoweth from Wicked in person!)

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Inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as a child I dreamed of having an enormous grand library with the books piled up to the ceiling. I will probably never own a house big enough to house such an ambitious library, but I still dream of having bookshelves line every wall of my future home (which I imagine to be cottage-like and cosy with the rooms painted gold like in Bridge to Terabithia). To this dream, I have added the desire to own tasteful artwork and fine wine. 

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My research (and thesis) advisor is a fellow bookaholic. He has five or six book shelves in his (tiny) office filled with books about Shakespeare, Renaissance culture, and other topics related to his research. One meeting while we were talking about purchasing books out of print, he told me that whenever he goes to England, he would peruse the bookshops there and sometimes he would find really rare books for only £20 or so. He is currently registered at the British Museum as the owner of the earliest edition of this one 16th century book and owns some very nice editions of rarely printed plays such as John Fletcher’s The Woman’s Prize. My professor has so many books that he can’t put them all in bookshelves at his house (his American literature collection lies in sad little stacks in his garage – sorry AmLit majors :D). Shelves and shelves of books, rare book collections, books categorized by genre and author (I’m an organization freak). This could be me in thirty years!

In addition to my new Mark Twain acquisition, my fledgling special books collection includes autographed copies of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and most recently Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia. Next week, I plan to get another book autographed by David Sedaris. 

I have caught the book bug (worm?) and I’m loving it. 

It's nice to see that reading isn't dead at all.

It's nice to see that reading isn't dead at all.

Also, happy belated 445th birthday (April 23) to Mr. William Shakespeare! Even though that might not be your real birthday… But I’m sure you don’t mind that we think of you as the literary St. George. 🙂