So I spent last night communing with The Book.
The Book is cumbersome to haul about, but I do it. I read it standing up on the subway, even, flipping back and forth between the bookmark in the story and the bookmark at the back where the footnotes are. So far I am at the 203rd footnote, and there are so many ahead of me. Some stretch for pages; some reference sub-notes; some require that you read footnotes which are a hundred footnotes past the footnote you’re reading now, forcing you to tear off yet a third bookmark.
Then there is the writer. The writer has read all of Finnegan�s Wake, more than once, and is pretty sure he understood it. (He thinks, though, that girls will like him for this.) He has wet dreams about being Thomas Pynchon, and I mean being in the “Being John Malkovich” sense of going around ordering his tea towels and brushing his own Pynchon-esque teeth.
Either that or he’s married and humble and has small, unattractively uncool dogs whose hairs he uncomplainingly vacuums from the carpet, and he goes to small dinner parties with old friends and has a comfortable sex life.
This is the brilliance of The Book. It could go either way. I picked it up from the Millers, but only in the sense that one picks up a disease. No, no, I started saying as soon as I saw the sheer cussed size of the blasted awful apocalyptic thing, get it away from me, backing away with my hand over my mouth to prevent the book germs from flying down my windpipe and taking root there and slowly growing page-like fungi in my larynx until I choked myself on my own newly-acquired vocabulary. But Ian just kept on coming, grinning like a maniac, Take it, take the book, and I was crouched down on the corner of the sofa in the well-appointed Miller living room, sort of crying in a bewildered child way and making a palsied cross with my index fingers as all two hundred pounds of all eleven hundred pages of The Book came crashing down into my lap, word after word after word after word after word just leering at me, silently, under the deceptively peaceful cover. By which, we all know, you really can’t judge.
But so anyway I took The Book home and ignored it for a week. It grumped around the living room and left wet towels on the floor and ate all the chips. Finally I opened it in sheer desperation, hoping that once I started taking it places I might have the luck to accidentally leave it on a bus somewhere.
But The Book is the golden goose, if that’s the fable I’m looking for, and I’m stuck with no help for it but to encourage the rest of you to touch it yourselves and be stuck along with me. Because misery, well, you know.