Waking up a few times every night and not being able to get back to sleep is not doing much for my daytime productivity, but it is doing wonders for my reading track record. Several times this week I have caught myself not particularly enjoying books, but finishing them nonetheless. There must be something about the wee small hours that make them very efficient reading times.
The book I started and finished in the dark this week was Sloane Crosley's essay collection How Did You Get This Number. I read Crosley's first essay collection, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, and although it got raves from every single critic there is, it didn't do a whole lot for me. So I'm not sure why I got this next volume, but there you have it. And again, there's either something about Crosley's subjects or writing that just doesn't light me on fire.
But yet...I read the whole thing. And in the last essay I got a little bit of Crosley's appeal: she's got the "essay twist" skill (this is what I call it when an essay takes a turn from its subject matter to its deeper meaning, usually aided and abetted by some sentences that take my breath away). In "Off the Back of a Truck," she combines the topics of a love affair gone wrong with her acquaintance with a furniture store employee who helped her get some questionable deals on merchandise. Sounds simple, but it's one of those essays where you know a lot more is going on than you're appreciating. I hope I'm not giving too much away, but in the end she gives up her furniture deals and her sadness over the failed relationship:
"Time passed, and I found myself wandering into Out of Your League [the store in question]--where I was apparently wearing an outfit that indicated I should be followed around like a fourteen-year-old shoplifter...I went over to the carpet wheel and spun, but I couldn't find one to fall in love with. I think I had just outgrown my fascination with the store in general. A thin, older saleslady in pearls lowered her glasses and asked me if she could help me with anything. But I could tell she didn't mean it.
'I think I'm set.' I waved, repeatedly pressing the button for the ground floor while she pretended not to judge me.*
What can you do? Time grabs you by the scruff of your neck and drags you forward. You get over it, of course. Everyone was right about that. One mathematically insignificant day, you stop hoping for happiness and become actually happy. Okay, on occasion, you do worry about yourself. You worry about what this experience has tapped into..." (pp. 270-271.)
There's more, in a totally fabulous conclusion, but I don't want to ruin it in case you read it. I just love the "time grabs you by the scruff" bit, because that's exactly what it does. Damn talented essayists, even when they're not my favorite essayists.
*I must always look pretty low-rent because this is how I usually get treated in stores too. Oh well. I can live with it.