Wandered into a bookstore today with Graham Greene on my mind. On a gray day in the northeastern section of the States tropical locales were rather appealing to me. As I considered the options I realized that Greene was the wrong way for me to go. Although much of his stuff is set in warm, exotic lands his characters still carry the deprivations and misery of postwar England within them. Given the grey skies outside it would only reinforce the gloom, which was the last thing I needed.
Pressing on down the aisle a copy of Michener’s “Caribbean” caught my eye. Perfect, no? Hefting it in my hand I thumbed through the pages, stopping to visit a paragraph here and there. Although the tone and subject matter were right, I remembered that his language is serviceable but in no way pretty. I did want to luxuriate in some well-turned phrases. After deliberating for a while I ultimately decided I would be unhappy inviting him into my life today, so I passed.
A litte farther along the path I ran into Paul Theroux. Bingo, that’s a gifted writer whose words engage me, and if I could grab some of his travel writing I was in business. Although I was looking more for a novel, I landed on “World’s End”. Being a book of short fiction set in various locales it satiated enough of my various competing desires to wind up in my basket. He has never failed me in the past.
A little doubt lingered, however, as I really had been hoping for a novel. For some reason TC Boyle came to mind. I used to enjoy his stuff a great deal, so why not revisit? After I lost interest in him he wrote several books, perhaps I could snag one and rekindle the fire. Noticing “Drop City” I remembered fairly warm coverage in the Times Book Review and was halfway sold to the register when I stopped to read the dust jacket. Oh, right, it’s about a failed utopian society and the fallout of misplaced sixties idealism. Given my antipathy towards the era and cynical dismissal of its aims I knew that I was making a dreadful mistake. A brief perusal of his other titles did nothing more than demonstrate what a preening asshole he looked like in the author photos. Jesu Christo, wearing bad ’80s outfits and posing like a rock star? get over yourself, man. I had almost written him off when I dimly remembered a book of his rich with the history and ghosts of the Hudson Valley. Even though it was a re-read I recalled the writing so very fondly that I knew it was what I needed in my head. Retracing my steps I found it there on the shelf, a novel titled “World’s End”.
So that is how I wound up buying two books with the same title. Maybe the Mayans were right.