Saturday, June 14, 2003

More than Zero

More than Zero

I quit the job where I had an office (an office with my name upon the door) on Peachtree street 6 weeks ago. I spent four weeks without a job, tidying up family affairs and preparing for the move. I mean, I had no job, but I was very, very busy every one of those days. And the minute, the very second I could have had a little breather and really enjoyed my joblessness - maybe hung around sleeping until noon or something - I started another job so I could pay my bills.

I've been shelving for Borders.

I have another professional job lined up, but it doesn't start until the end of the month. So I had to do something for July's rent money. It's the best of all retail arrangements, really; half of my shift is completed before the store opens for customers, and I've rang exactly two sales on the registers. The downside to avoiding customers is that I have to wake up at 4:30 every morning so I can be at work by 6, and after 8 hours of unpacking book boxes, I have no inclination to unpack my own boxes at home. So my move-in is still stilted and my own room unpleasant, while I spent most of my time organizing the bookstore. I pass out around 8 pm every night - and I'm terribly guilty-feeling about this because my teenage sister Sara is still with me. I should be more fun. I try, but it's kind of hard to be full of fun after stocking things all day. I've promised to be more fun after I go back to a 9 to 5 job, but I think she'll be with my grandparents by then.

I do love being around books again; I love having instant access to the newest thing. I probably spent more of my childhood in Narnia, Middle Earth, and on Pern than in the real world. As a consequence everything in my life relates to some book I've read somehow, and I interact best with those who relate their thoughts through quotes gleaned from a million novels, movies, and television shows.

For instance, a couple of months ago it occurred to me that all my romantic relationships are like the experience I have when I read a Bret Easton Ellis novel. They're not at all like the actual text of a Bret Easton Ellis novel, but like my experience of reading one of his books.

First, I hear all about the book, maybe see it around a few places. Everyone raves about how good it is. "Have you read American Psycho? Oh, it's brilliant! You should really read it!"

I ask around about the book, and it's recommended by everyone. Some controversy may be discussed at this point, but in a good way; everyone has a different opinion about the book (guy). But everyone agrees I should at least give the novel a try; after all, I do read a lot.

So I pick up the book - Glamorama, or Less Than Zero, or American Psycho, or whatever. And I'm hooked right away! The prose is constructed in this way that makes me totally wish I could write like Bret Easton Ellis, and his subtext is just...he just blows me away. I tell everyone how much I'm enjoying this novel. I brag on it. People give each other secretive glances when I say this, and ask me how far I've gotten into the story in a sly kind of way.

This should be a tip-off, but after the first few chapters, I'm not going to stop reading the book now.

Things progress. They progress in the way a Bret Easton Ellis novel always progresses; he abandons his witty surface prose halfway through the book and the story gets raw, the subtext becomes a weapon. I am annoyed, but won;t quit reading. By the end of the novel, I feel embarrassed for liking it. The ending is morally indefensible, and a little gross. But I still like the book; I can't quite get over how good the beginning was, how much his prose caught me, despite the fact that the ending was so disturbing I'll never read it again.

I try to discuss my feelings about the novel with friends, but none of them quite understand what I'm trying to say. They can't get why I still like Bret Easton Ellis after what he did, right there at the end. But I do like him. And even though the book is over between us, I secretly go back and read the first few chapters over again from time to time.

And really, what's the harm in that?

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