I don’t know how much longer I can afford to have friends. Last week, it was Dorothy, visiting from Ithaca, buying me a drink at Mirbeau, settling me into a brown leather sofa, and then softly saying, “Margarite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.” I should have seen it coming; open your dictionary to “temptress” and there in the margin is a little black & white portrait of Dorothy. And of course Memoirs of Hadrian is available at Amazon.com and arrived yesterday. I’ll begin reading it as soon as I finish Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age, which I blame on my nephew Sean, who gave me a copy of Snow Crash which led immediately to Cryptonomicon, available only in hardcover at the time, and now I’m backwards one book to Diamond Age which is terrific, leaving me helpless before the publication of whatever Stephenson chooses to write next.
You may say, “Kihm, are there no libraries? Have you no self-restraint?” Yes. And no. But I can’t carry library books when I travel. They’re not mine. And I will fly only with Charles Dickens, and I can’t be running to the library for Dickens every time someone at work hands me a plane ticket. Instead, I can walk up to any airport bookstore clerk in America, and they will say, “Hi, Mr. Winship. How was Nicholas Nickleby?” Or Great Expectations, or Bleak House, or Oliver Twist, or David Copperfield, or The Pickwick Papers, all thanks to Jeanann, yes, you Jeanann, who gifted me with a copy of Tale of Two Cities in the diabolical knowledge of where it would lead. How fitting that my next travel book is Our Mutual Friend.
And it’s not just books. Susan loaned me a tape of poet Billy Collins reading his own work, mesmerizing stuff, and of course Billy has a CD. A few months ago I mentioned to Jon (“The Enabler”) that we were thinking about getting a new TV and he pressed a Crutchfield catalog into my hands before I could finish saying ‘Vee.’ I won’t tell you where that led, except to say we got a personal letter from Bill Crutchfield thanking us for making the first quarter such a rollicking success.
This isn’t Eve and the Serpent offering Adam an apple. This is Eve and the Serpent running a truck farm, and throwing free rhubarb in the basket because I bought so many berries.
But occasionally I take my revenge. My friend Melissa loves tea, and today I found a Web site that featured a pageant of posters and prints of tea art, tea advertising, tea heaven. I copied and sent the URL her way without a pang.