We have only one bookstore where I live, and it happens to be a chain Border's store. Of course, everyone who wanted to buy books had to go there, since the Barnes & Noble closed down over a decade ago and the only other book store is a small hole-in-the-wall used paperback shack that has no real organization method besides genre... not even alphabetized by author or title! Naturally, since my Bear built me custom bookshelves to house all my literary wealth, old journals (I've kept books on my life since age six, so there's a whole shelf of them), and my own attempts at fiction writing, the great powers saw fit to shut down Border's. Now, I know I can purchase books online and have them shipped to my doorstep. I know I can buy books online and download them to my computer. Neither option gives me a place to escape to and peruse shelves of diversions I have yet to explore. I can't go to Amazon.com and pick up a book, feel the binding, smell the pages and ink that hold the promise of adventure.
Part of the magic in bookstores is the kinetic experience. Feeling and smelling and seeing and hearing and connecting to the literary world. The internet is great, but it lacks the reality and connectedness I crave. Especially with books.
You will never see me with a digital reader. I can't find the same comfort with a tablet as I can with a paperback. I can't correct grammar mistakes when I come across them, because I am that nerd who corrects those things in her books. I can't bring a mechanical object into my bathtub to enjoy a story while soaking and drinking something delicious, listening to composers whose music I feel enhances the mood of the story. And heaven forbid I fall asleep and roll over on a Kindle or it drops to the floor. Because at night the one sure way to fall asleep for me is to occupy my brain with the trials and turbulence of some other reality. Not that my reality is bad. It's just easier for me to doze off when I am distanced from all the things directly related to ME.
Anyway, off the tangent, Bear and I often have "reading dates". These are times when we sit there together and read our respective books. We don't talk a lot, sometimes we hold hands, and we slide into our own little worlds, constructed in the imagination of the author, inhabited by us. We sometimes take a breather and discuss the goings on in our own stories and any revelations we may have had, and emerge again under the spell of great literature. These are some of my favorite "dates", and we never physically leave the couch.
This past weekend, Bear went to Border's and bought on sale almost every title they had under Charles de Lint's pen for me. I chose to read The Mystery of Grace first, the most recent release I had been dying to read since it was first announced that the book was forthcoming. It was fabulous and I couldn't put it down. Granted, the novel is only about 270 pages long, so I picked it up Sunday afternoon and finished it before leaving for work this morning.
The story revolves around Altagracia "Grace" Quintero, a tattooed part Mexican part Italian female mechanic with a love of Ford Motor Company and hot rods that is only rivaled to her love of her recently deceased Abuelo. Grace is dealing with this recent loss, an incredible blow to her entire outlook on life, that leaves her stumbling back to her old smoking habit for comfort. This small addiction's resurgence leads her to the local grocery on the corner, a block away from the historical, if not odd, transplanted building in which she rents an apartment. At this grocery, intending to feed her addiction and spend a quiet night in, Grace learns of her new fate...
The story begins with Grace spending an intimate evening with a new aquaintance, John. They met one night at the Halloween Witches' Ball and left together; inexplicably smitten. Neither of them has ever fallen so fast and so completely, nor shared so much personal information with a stranger so comfortably. This confidence they made in each other seemed so genuine, which is why John can't quite figure out why she disappeared from his apartment without a word... had she even been there? Halloween in the desert town was a time of sugar skulls and votive candles, and the anniversary of John's brother's death; a loss he blames himself for. Had he imagined Grace as a side effect to his yearly attack of grief?
I can't give away the plot, really, because then what good is reading the book to find out? Charles de Lint is my all-time favorite author, and his stories are absolutely riveting. Magic and reality fit seamlessly together to weave a convincing world, not unlike ours. The line between this world that we all accept and another world we don't understand is so fine in places and at certain times, that we rub elbows with things we don't often accept as real. And sometimes when you think you've seen a face or a figure out of the corner of your eye, you discover that you really did. If you're like me at all, you will find yourself constantly questioning the world after reading one of De Lint's novels. His stories are so convincing, his characters are so human, that you can't help but feel that, if only when the pages lay open before you, the world he creates is an actual place. You have only to suspend your disbelief to be there, too.
Happy Monday! Has anyone else read a really wonderful book lately?