Books to pack
BY JOSEPH PLANTA
VANCOUVER – In less than a week, I’ll find myself on a long haul flight. It’s not the destination that worries me, rather it’s the journey. I’m not enthusiastic about the several hours I’ll be flying, and so I’ve sought advice from regular travellers like Rafe Mair and Rona Maynard. They have both suggested reading mid-air.
I am not a productive reader. Perhaps because I have to read a great deal to prepare for my interviews, I don’t read for leisure. I’m also not a fast reader, which puts me off reading more than anything else. It heartened me a bit when the great Eleanor Wachtel told me in an interview recently that she too was a slow reader.
I also have the habit of re-reading books I enjoy. Now there`s nothing wrong with that, however it does paralyse me from reading books that I ought to or should. I do the same with movies. I`m loathe to start a picture I’ve never seen, yet can easily watch Superbad or About a Boy whenever it’s rerun on television.
The combination of sheer boredom and close quarters on this forthcoming flight affords me the chance to get a great deal of reading done. I`ve been ransacking my brain as to what to pack.
As a book buyer and sort of collector, I tend to favour hard cover editions of books over what`s called trade paperback versions in the book business. I find they stand up better on the shelf, and the spines don’t wear out visibly as the softer covers. As carry-on items on a plane however, in light of events of recent days, it doesn`t seem viable to be lugging around many hardbacks. Rona Maynard says she packs up to four books on the flight, as well as a couple of magazines bought at the airport. Stuff lying around the house won`t cut it, as it`ll bore, since it’s likely sat atop a coffee table for some weeks.
Another consideration as to what to pack has to do with the possibility that I might lose or leave the book behind. As such, it`s gotta be a book I`m prepared to not return with. And I would admittedly be heartsick if I lost a hard cover that I spent nearly forty bucks on.
A favourite is Tony Hendra`s Father Joe. It’s my favourite book, one I go to regularly. I try and read it at Lent, and perhaps around Christmas. I`m due to read it again, and this flight would be ideal. I don`t own a soft cover version, and I`ve already lost one hardcover to a loan, so I`m really hesitant about taking this along. I suppose I could read the posthumous George Carlin memoir, Last Words, which Hendra co-wrote. It`s a hard cover, with no trade paperback out yet, so I might not want to bring that. I`ve always loved Carlin (and Hendra too for that matter), so I don`t think I`d want my collection at home to be without this book.
Earlier this year, Stephen Hunt from the Calgary Herald said that the Rick Pearlstein book Nixonland would be a book I`d like. I bought the soft cover this past summer, and have yet to read it. On the list it goes.
I recently heard Wayson Choy on the radio talking about the Jade Peony. I read it in high school, and since it`s a Canada Reads finalist, perhaps it`s time to read it again. Perhaps because I was born and raised in Canada, even though my parents are Filipino, I have little connection to my roots. Choy, a Canadian born in Vancouver of Chinese ancestry has long struggled with his cultural identity in his writing, so perhaps it might be an interesting read. Or maybe his memoir All that Matters would be more apt.
Another book on my desk is the remarkable Vancouver Special by Charles Demers. I recounted the story on the program recently about how I sought the book out the weekend after it came out, and went of all places to the People`s Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive. A friend apprised of my political dispositions suggested that my shirts were perhaps a tad too starched for such an establishment. I`d love to bring Vancouver Special along, but I`m scared I`ll lose it on the trip, as it is simply too great a book not to have. It is such a wonderful love letter to Vancouver. Perhaps I should pack it along to combat homesickness?
I`ve considered packing some fiction along. I don`t read novels, despite having had some pretty big time writers on the program. I simply don`t have the imagination for reading a novel, and some idle hours over the Pacific Ocean would be good to catch up on some fiction. Rona Maynard suggested some light fiction conducive to interruptions. Maybe a collection of short stories? What about Alice Munro`s recent book? Would Mordecai Richler`s Barney`s Version be good for my situation? I`ve always wanted to read it. Then again, I`m tempted to go with what I know and what I`ve already read, and one I`m considering bringing is Nam Le`s The Boat.
My colleague Sean Cranbury did a great interview with Shinan Govani about his novel, Bold Face Names. I might bring that, along with the new Jeannette Walls book, Half Broke Horses. I really liked her last book, The Glass Castle.
It`s not the humidity, the language, the culture, the water, or the food that worries me about this trip. It`s what to bring along to read. Thinking about the situation, it`s not a bad bind to be in. Clearly proof yet again (if I ever needed it to begin with), that there`s no shortage of good reading out there.