I need more books in my house like I need a hole in the head, but somehow or another I found my way to the bookstore yesterday and picked up a couple new acquisitions. There’s just nothing like a new book, is there? The smell. The crisp, unbroken spine. The promise of what’s inside that you haven’t yet discovered. The buzz never fails.
And, yet, my house is full of books I haven’t read. There’s dozens. And I’m not talking clunker hand-me-downs or boxes of thrift store throw aways. I’m talking about never read, bookstore fresh books that I bought and never picked up because I bought other new books before I could read them. Which brings me back to the hole in the head.
French philosopher Jacques Lacan wrote about Objet Petit a (object little a, for those non-francophiles), which he described as the object of unattainable desire. It’s like this. It is not the objects you acquire, or the thing itself, whatever it may be (new tits, a car, leather gloves, earrings, paperbacks, lamps etc), it is the desire to acquire that we over and over again trick ourselves into believing will be satisfied and quieted by said acquisitions. Except it isn’t. We’ve all felt this desire and we will all feel it again. Every time I buy new books I am compelled not just by the desire to read and to experience stories I’ve not yet experienced–it’s not just an adventurer’s buoyant gusto at work–but also a small but persistent voice inside my brain (let’s call him The Idiot) that tells me I’ll be happier if I get stuff that I don’t already possess. The name works because it’s idiotic behavior. Picture me. Or picture you. You stand there, whatever it is you don’t need tucked under your arm, or in a basket, staring around the store, beating yourself up for spending money you don’t have on stuff you don’t need. You put the things back. You pick them back up. You walk over there. You come back. You scan the wall. You put the things back. You pick them back up. And do so until you either buy them or leave empty handed and say to yourself, “I should have just bought them.” Either way, the feeling persists. Soon after the purchase, be it days, or even hours, the desire is back and must again be quelled. The Idiot is not easily satiated or mollified. He is an Idiot of massive appetite with a great big fork and knife. And my Idiot is most often hungry for pages with writing on them.
Anyway, so I bought a couple of new books, okay? And, so sue me, they were both hardcovers. And aside form that Lacan interlude, and some lingering guilt, I’m genuinely excited about them.
I’ve already started Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max. It’s sad and kind of wonderful so far. Even if there’s something porn like and oddly voyeuristic in reading about a person who you know was mentally ill and committed suicide. Still, who doesn’t like porn? But I’m fascinated by Wallace and his life and work and though I’ve put it off, I was going to work my way around to this one eventually.
And now waiting in the wings is George Saunder’s new story collection Tenth of December. I love Saunders. Have you read him? If not, do yourself a big one and get on it. His collection of essays The Braindead Megaphone is a personal favorite and I’m looking forward to reading more of his fiction. If I haven’t gotten bogged down in a pile of new books by the time I remember I even bought it, I’ll let you know how it is.