The trouble with being very short is that in quite subtle but still quite important ways you remain a child for the whole of your adult life.
This week there's been a lot of top chat on Wyndham's blog about Neal Stephenson, with particular reference to Cryptonomicon, with particular reference to how Neal Stephenson is like Thomas Pynchon for dummies, which resulted in my rashly promising the assembled crowd that I would attempt to read Gravity's Rainbow again.
This is no minor undertaking, incidentally - the merest paragraph of Pynchon's can keep you awake for hours with lexical indigestion. But I wasn't going to let that deter me, oh no. Then I realised that my copy of Gravity's Rainbow is actually several postcodes away chez ex-Mr P. Not only that, but it's also all horrid, decayed and swollen because it used to live in our bathroom with the Tintin books and Onion annuals, which - for reasons I can't possibly imagine - tended to be more popular with bathroom visitors.
So off I skip to Waterstone's with one of those feelings of irrational joy that I often get on a Saturday morning. I'm wearing my green military-style jacket and a stripy scarf. I've just had my eyebrows threaded. I fancy I look just like one of London's boho left-wing intelligentsia. I'm going to buy Gravity's Rainbow, and I'm going to read it upstairs in the smoking bit of Caffe Nero, sitting on one of those banquettes that I hate so much. Handsome, intelligent men will probably fall in love with me. What could possibly go wrong?
In Waterstone's, alphabetical ordering has contrived to place Thomas Pynchon on the top shelf. I can see the book. I can touch it. But I can't get it down. It's wedged in too tightly, sandwiched in between his other - and in Wyndham's opinion, better - works. I need to get my fingers on top of it, but I can't reach that high. I look around. There's a bloke standing next to me. I briefly consider asking him to get it for me, but then I realise how stupid that would make me look, like a child asking its Mum to fetch the biscuit tin down*.
Feeling terribly humiliated, I leave empty-handed. I almost want to cry. Instead, I buy the Guardian and read it upstairs in the smoking bit of Caffe Nero, sitting on one of those banquettes that I hate so much. No one appears to fall in love with me. The whole morning is completely ruined.
Later, I remember there's a gigantic Books Etc. on Shepherd's Bush Green, where I find the book well within my puny reach. So, if you'll excuse me, I have 760 pages of literary tour de force to get through...
* To this day, my Mum (who's nine inches taller than me) keeps her biscuits and chocolates on the top shelf of the cupboard where I can't get at them.
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