Bedside Manner: Mogwai's Travel Reading

What Savlov's dog is napping on these days

As any number of exes will be all too happy to tell you, when I'm not writing about or watching movies, I'm either deep inside a book, graphic novel, magazine, or some other form of printed matter, oblivious, gone, busy-reading-please-be-quiet, or scouring used bookstores for cool book-scores that my dog Mogwai (seen here) can nap upon.

For a short time, a few years ago, I got hooked on the literary and collectible magazine aspects of eBay. No more. That's the quickest way to a negative bank balance I've yet come across, and not nearly as pleasurable as loitering with intent to browse at Half-Price Books, Bookpeople, Austin Books, or, more recently, my parent's house in Reno, Nevada, which, in my outsider's opinion, doesn't have all that much going for it unless you're into toothless meth addicts, aged hookers in neon-green plaid pantsuits, or shooting craps with blind-drunk Asian tourists. (Reno, not my parent's house.)

Anyway, due to an illness in the family, I've become Southwest Airlines' best customer, shuttling between Austin and Reno on an almost weekly basis. Since crack whores weird me out and I'm not into high-stakes mahjong with probable yakuza, I've spent a fair amount of time over the last seven months wading through the thousands of books my family pack-ratted away since, apparently, the day I was born and long, long before.

I've uncovered a trove of my old Hebrew school texts (which totally explains why I can't speak Hebrew), a 1947 first edition of Margaret Wise Brown's intense, creepy ("Goodnight nobody"), and thoroughly awesome children's book Goodnight Moon, and intriguingly, Ye Olde Familie Bible (mixed marriage, don't ask.) There's no date of publication on the Good Book, but I'm guessing 1880s or thereabouts. Certainly Nick Cave would be jealous. I can't think of a more personal (and cool) volume of familial literature than a weathered old leather-bound bible, and this one carries inscriptions from my great-grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and mother on the flyleaf. Sweet. (Even more intriguing was the 8-cent Air Mail stamp tucked inside. WTF? Seriously. How bad was the Great Depression? So bad that you had to secret away your postage stamps in your bible lest revenuers and scoundrels abscond with them. Jesus.)

Far and away my most prized piece of texty archeology from Ye Olde Parents' house (to date) is, go figure, My Book About Me, by Dr. Seuss, artist Roy McKie, and, yes, Me, Myself, as it says on the cover. I don't know if this is still in print, but it should be because it's freaking fantastic. The front cover has a blank picture frame for you to put a picture of yourself in, even. Yep, that's the five-year-old me, sitting in the mouth of a fake hippo somewhere on some Floridian vacation, sporting black socks with sandals topped off with a sailor's cap. (Don't laugh, that ensemble was and remains the ne plus ultra of kiddie-couture.) Inside this glorious time machine/freakout are 60 pages of scintillating factoids about me, but, you know, then.

My penchant for hyperbole was already in full blossom. According to my scribblings in the spaces helpfully provided for young autobiographers, I weighed "100,000" pounds (although a more accurate figure, "65," is crossed out in green Crayon), I had a total of "300" teeth, and my favorite foods were "candy, ice cream, and potato," in that order. Anticipating my future appreciation of Morrissey and scantily-clad PETA spokeswomen, I eschewed "meat," although that has since changed. Prefiguring this very blog post by almost 40 years, I had already read "100,000,000" books, my favorite of which was "Godzilla." Some things never change.

Back in the real world, my bedside book shelf is currently crammed with a little bit of everything. I'm an omnivorous reader, one of those irritating-to-their-bed-partner people who can't get to sleep at night until they knock back a few chapters of whatever's at hand.

This week's bookshelf is a fairly representative scattering of fiction (my father's old copy of Max Brand's Destry Rides Again, the collected Novels of Dashiell Hammett, Richard Kadrey's second ultra-noir, supercool Sandman Slim novel, Kill the Dead ) and non-fiction (local author Josh Frank's In Heaven Everything is Fine: The Unsolved of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre, James Ellroy's self-sex therapy-cum-memoir The Hilliker Curse). Atop the stack is a recent used book store acquisition that, thankfully, promises to ease my agrypnotic evenings while making me more mordacious than ever before, Clauréne du Gran's Wordsmanship: Preposterously Long, Cruelly Obscure Substitutes for Common Everyday Words. Much to my dismay, however, my favorite preposterous slab of verbiage, batrachian (courtesy of H.P. Lovecraft), is notable for its absence. The horror … the horror.

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Bedside Manner: Sharing Shelf Space
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Bedside Manner, Max Brand, Destry Rides Again, Dashiell Hammett, Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim

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