Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Okay, making good 'Ambersons' progress. For those of you who don't know, or just have vague ideas of Orson Welles being furious, it's about the decline and fall of the midwestern monarchy in the face of the industrial revolution. Among other things. The main character, George Miniver, is prince of the town and a spoiled brat who runs wild in his pony cart and roundly abuses everyone.

I've already done some annotating; I underlined the following passage, an encounter between Georgie and a man he's driven off the road with his cart.

"Georgie, without even seeming to look at him, flicked the long lash of his whip dexterously, and a little spurt of dust came from the hardware man’s trousers, not far below the waist. He was not made of hardware: he raved, looking for a missile; then, finding none, commanded himself sufficiently to shout after the rapid dog-cart: “Turn down your pants, you would-be dude! Raining in dear ole Lunnon! Git off the earth!”'

Awesome, no?

I went for a walk a minute ago (incidentally, in tightish jeans, although nothing remotely resembling a halter top) and since I was passing the local bookstore, I figured I might as well pop in and pick up a copy of 99 (The Ginger Man) just to have it in the on-deck circle. In the grand tradition of independent bookstores, this one is rather inclined to smug superiority for no very good reason, and there was a guy in Birkenstocks shelving very self-importantly right in front of "DU-" who sighed audibly and acted very aggrieved whenever I tried to peer around him for my title.

"Git off the earth, you would-be dude,' I thought.

I went up to the information desk where a girl was on a personal call and seemed irritated by my presence.

"We don't have it, but we can order it," she said at length. I didn't want to; I'd much rather have just gone to Barnes and Noble; but I was weak.

"Okay," I said reluctantly, and filled out a call slip. Theoretically I'll have it in two days.

Another thing about Ambersons - the love interest, Lucy, is a year older than George. Reassuring, that, as I have a date with a 25-year-old this week and was feeling like a cradle-robber.

The Magnificent Ambersons

So, here's the thing: I have a really, really big fine at the Brooklyn Public Library. I think it's from The Illusionist, or some other DVD you wouldn't necessarily pay to rent but at the library it looks pretty good but it's annoying that that's what the fine's for. Anyway, my local branch has this kind of creepy librarian in very, very tight hip-huggers and a ponytail who, a long time ago, waived a fine for me in a very significant and insinuating way and now acts like we have a special secret. And the thing about this branch is, they don't have a book drop, so you have to hand it to the librarian, which in addition to being awkward if it's late, in my case necessitates contact with the creepy guy. I tried to determine his hours so as to go when he wasn't there, and soon learned that his hours are: always.

I decided to splash out on a new copy. Or, at any rate, a used one. I hit the Strand the other day with this in mind, and of course they didn't have it (although I did get this swell new cookbook, Eric Kayser's Tarts) and it was filled with teenage litterati. Since I was eager to jump into my self-improvement campaign, I bit the bullet and hied me away to the Court Street Barnes and Noble. I was then faced with the choice of a really nice Penguin edition with a Winslow Homer painting on the cover, and the crummy, salmon-pink house paperback from the "Classics" table, that looks like it's for assigned summer reading. The price differential was five bucks, and the choice was clear. I took my crappy copy to the front of the store.

While I was on line for the register, a group of fratty guys materialized behind me, and one of them started talking on the phone very audibly, while his friends all stood around sniggering.

"Yeah, there's this chick in front of me in line," he said, "and she's running around the store in this weird little dress (). I'd like to see her in some tight jeans and a halter top."

Inauspicious start!

Chapter 1

I can read. I mean, I'm reasonably literate and have had a normal education and everything that implies. But I recently realized that I was a grown up, and that I was never going to be required to read anything again for the rest of my life, and that it was up to me - to me, who doesn't understand why alchemy doesn't work! - to determine the course of my education for the rest of my life. I guess I always assumed that by the time I was an adult, all that would be kind of taken care of; I'd have read and learned all the important stuff and could devote the rest of my life to niche pursuits and the latest chic fiction. Instead, I find myself with gaping holes in my education and a TBR list that gets longer every day.

The other thing is, I kind of don't remember what I've actually read, as opposed to what I've pretended to have read, or started and never finished, or listened to on tape, or saw the movie version short, I need a system, and fast. I decided, therefore, to start this project: read through some list of great books and keep a journal, just for accountability's sake.

I looked through a lot of lists of books (there's no shortage on the net), and decided to stick with the classics: modern library 100. Once I get the English under my belt, maybe I'll go global, but let's keep it simple for now. Okay, wish me luck.

A little background might be a good idea. I'm 26, work from home as an editor/ghostwriter (plus part time in a boutique), and recently broke up with my fiance and boyfriend of 8 years. My sublet, here in Brooklyn, is a charmer, but in the grand tradition of such things I don't have it for long.

Today's sunny and cool, I have a banana pudding in the fridge, and I'm ready to start with no. 100 - The Magnificent Ambersons.