I stopped by the book store last week to pick up my most recent order, Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton. They keep the "on hold" books at the far end of the store making it necessary to walk past all the tables and stacks loaded with books of every stripe and all colors dazzling the eye, their fragrant newness hitting the olfactory nerves. It is a very conniving and most unfair practice. This set up was no doubt the brain child of some marketing expert - maybe the same one who said, "Let's sell double mocha latte while we're at it." The gauntlet is a difficult one to run successfully. Back home, in a precariously teetering pile, are the books I want to get around to reading - preferably in my lifetime, before my heirs sell them all at a garage sale in an effort to settle my estate. Intellectually, I knew I should run as fast as I could to the pick up desk, glancing neither to the left nor the right nor dead ahead - staring only at the floor. I already own more books than I could possibly ever read -even if I spent every waking, breathing moment doing nothing else. Alas. As Pascal once said, "The heart has its reasons that reason does not know." And in my dotage I have concluded that the heart and the mind seldom act in one accord. There was a faint twinge of guilt as I plunked Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan and To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield onto the counter. It was assuaged when I decided to call them "late birthday presents."
Bonjour Tristesse is a very short "coming of age" book, under 200 pages, and I should have it finished by tonight. It was written by Francoise Sagan in the early 1950's when she was only 17 years old and apparently made a huge splash at its publication. From what I've read of Sagan herself, it is also a bit autobiographical. The novella reads very easily; nevertheless, I am not yet convinced it deserves the amount critical acclaim it received. I will be patient and wait to turn the last page before I cast my verdict. It was a great financial success for Sagan, who spent the money as quickly as she could in typical teeny-bopper style - on clothes and a fancy sports car. But, I guess it's all relative. Back inthe 1950's a paperback book cost about fifty cents; today they run about $12.00. Oh my...that thought has just sent me into a paroxysm of guilt once more -- does that mean...could it be...could I be reading a shiny, red sportscar!!?