At the start of summer, I inveiled myself on the arduous, nigh-impossible project of reading one book a week (from the libary system's 7-day loan shelves) through summer, all while working full time, raising two toddlers, attending to household responsibilities, and becoming increasingly obsessed with electoral politics. Some will say that the project was doomed to failure from the start, and my response to such critics is: Spot-on prediction! Have you considered sending your resume to Lehman Brothers? They could probably use an insightful, forward-looking analyst like you.
The last update on the BRLP concerned a faltering attempt at getting through a book on the Works Progress Administration, along with a renewed effort that would begin with Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives. While certainly compelling and innovative in it's oral history-like style, it soon became clear that I wasn't going to finish the book within a week, or even two. We took a trip to Boston in early August, and I worried that I might lose or damage the book so -- since it belonged to the library and not to me -- I set the book aside to read up on some of Barack Obama's policy positions in The Audacity of Hope.
Monday, I found that the book was not on or in my desk at work, not left by the printer or the photocopier, not filed away with the spare pound of coffee beans or cough drops, not even in the drawer that houses a few remaining thank you cards that I never sent following my March 2005 wedding.
It was not in the car. It was not at the Student Union lost and found.
I thought for sure it would turn up. I avoided talking about the book, or saying anything more about it. I tried visualization exercises, trying to imagine where I was on Wednesday, August 13th, the last day I spent with the book. I read other things, including some stories by Samantha Clarke, the second half of David Mitchell's excellent Cloud Atlas, and The Essential Groucho.
Today, my long-suffering and put-upon wife finally took it upon herself to call up the library and arrange to pay late fines and the cost of replacing the book. So, you know, thanks for the bailout! I promise to be more fiscally responsible in the future, and only borrow what I know I'm able to give back.
(Meanwhile, I've taken full financial ownership of a copy of Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, which so far seems like a much more profluent and readable version of the last third of Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost. It includes the idea -- one I will fully support -- that men who wear mustaches ought to have some sort of special talent, like archery, card tricks, or palindromes. Seems to have merited it's National Book Award on that observation alone, if you ask me.)
P.S. I presume that the Shorewood Public Library's copy of The Savage Detectives is either hanging out in Mexico City cafes (as in the first third of the novel), backpacking around Europe (as in the second third), or on the run from a murderous pimp in the Sonoran desert (third third). If anyone should happen upon this book, please know that I'd be grateful for the opportunity to finish reading the book. Also note that it no longer belongs to the Shorewood Public libary, but instead to American taxpayers. And, more specifically, my wife.