The Hypocrisy of Information

We demand
to have our government documents
visible and available
and insist they be in reach
for whenever we wish
to call upon them.

So every Thursday
I hike back through the shelves
of decomposing brown books
that no one can throw away
Reading their titles as I pass.

“House Documents Vol. 82
Water Supply and Irrigation Papers 173-178”
or
“Senate Executive Documents Vol. 3
Tariffs of the American Publics Part 4”

I hide back here
protected by the wall of government information
that we demand to have
knowing I can get all of my homework done
uninterrupted.

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You want a list of my favorite books? What’s the catch?

I realize that I haven’t posted in a while. What can I say? College has been so crazy lately, that I really hadn’t the time.

Take last Saturday night, for example.

I’ll start by setting the scene. It’s 2:00 A.M. The lights in my room seem glaringly bright for this dark hour. Everybody on our floor was either out into the world, exploring life as it came, or tucked away in the folds of their own rooms.

Blearily, I sat on my roommates’ bed, unable to comprehend my computer in front of me. My friend from down the hall sat at the other end of the bed, in a similar predicament. Things were starting to get a little bit…fuzzy.

Yes, I’ll admit it. We were having a homework party. A crazy, late night homework party. On a Saturday, of all days! And the later and later it got, the less and less work got done. My poem analysis sat forgotten behind my Internet browser, and my friend had resorted to consulting me with her psych questions, instead of the book that sat three feet away on the desk.

Like most late night college adventures, something grand was bound to happen. And on this particular night, it was a request posed by my friend.

“You read an awful lot,” she began. “And talk about books an awful lot.” I continued making my late night tea, my silence accepting the truths that she had just lay in front of me.

Really though, what was I to say? I could not deny it. Books are one of my true loves, one of the finest pleasures that I can have. They sit on a shelf of happiness, nestled between tea boxes and jars of sea glass. And I do have the habit of talking about books the same way some people talk about their children-lovingly, and on the verge of way too much. It’s just that once I’ve read a book, it becomes a part of me. But it’s a part of me that other people may have too, and if they don’t, I try to share it with them. Or maybe it’s more like tasting the finest dessert, and when you let others take a bite, you only gain more of the delicious taste. Either way, I could and have talked about books for hours.

“So, could you maybe make me a list of books? Of ones that you think are worth reading,” she finished hopefully. When she asked this, I was stopped in my tracks.

At that moment, she had bestowed upon me both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because before she had even finished the question, my mind was spinning. Authors, settings, locations, plot twists…all of everything that I had ever had and ever wanted to read was set loose into my mind. It was as though somebody had flung open every door and window in a grand library, and the books themselves had decided to escape with the wind. And I was standing in the middle of all of the tales and beloved characters, letting them fly around me, soaking it all in. It was absolutely delightful.

But the curse, the curse weighed heavy on my tongue as I dared to ask. The curse kept me stock still, containing my enthusiasm only to my mind.

“How many books would this list have?” I asked slowly, attempting to remind the enthusiastic library in my mind that the answer would only be eight, maybe ten if we were lucky.

“Oh,” she said, pausing to think. “Maybe thirty? Or fifty?”

“I can do that,” I chocked out, surprised at her generosity.

“Are you sure? That’s a lot,” she said. “Oh, no,” I reassured her with a laugh.

“No, see, trying to pick a few favorite books…it’s impossible.”

Truly, it is. Books are like people-each book you meet is amazing and different and wonderful in it’s own way. Different people love different ones, and have their own preferences. And trying to pick just a few of your favorites will leave others that are just as worthy behind. So I was immensely relieved that she gave me a large number to begin with.

So I closed out of my homework, and sat down with my notebook. Soon the list grew and grew, including short stories, poems, and children’s books. My initial intention was to publish the list in its entirety here. But then I started writing, and realized that I couldn’t mention a book that I love and not talk about it. So some of my next posts will concern books, and some will concern other things.

But for now, let’s start with one of my all time favorites. It’s one of those books that I have reread again and again. I’ll frequently quote and reference it, even when nobody around me knows what the hell I’m talking about. This book is a guaranteed laugh, but going into it, you need to know that you’ll end up crying too. In fact, that aspect of it is a little odd. You’ll read it for the comedy, but the catch is that it’s so terribly sad. I suppose that you could say that it’s a bit of a…Catch-22. Yes, the book I am talking about is “Catch-22”, by Joseph Heller. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22

Quick Facts

Title: Catch-22

Author: Joseph Heller

Published: 1961

Setting: Europe, during World War II

Age Range: High school and up. I read this my sophomore year in high school, and loved it. But now that I’m older and I reread it, I realize that some of it definitely went over my head. Also, this book has violence, sex, and many deaths, so if that’s not your style, I don’t suggest this book for you. But read with an open mind and sense of black humor, this book is a good read for most.

About: This satire on war follows Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier during World War II, and his attempt to stay alive. It’s filled with madness disguised as logic, black humor, and death.

Favorite part: Chapter 12, the part where they steal a jeep to try to avoid a mission. Unfortunately, the one driving is drunk, and they crash it. This misadventure is hilarious, and when I have a bad day, I just go and read this part to make myself laugh.

Favorite quote: “He had decided to live forever, or die in the attempt…”

Pros: If you like black humor, then you might not want to read this book in public. (Trust me, it’s difficult to explain to you band director why you’re laughing so hard at a chapter entitled “Nately’s Whore”.) It also asks a lot of very deep questions, and you will spend parts of the book yelling your response to the horribly immoral acts. Or, at least, I did.

Cons: This book will make you feel things…sad things. I’m warning you know, you’ll be laughing so hard, you’ll start crying. Then something terrible will happen, and you’ll be crying because it’s so sad. So if you don’t enjoy feeling those feeling things, don’t read this book. Also, it’s fairly long. I like to view that sort of thing like a challenge, but if you want a quick read, this is probably not it. There are also a LOT of characters to keep straight.

Movie? Yes, released in 1970, starring Alan Arkin. Considering the size of the book, I think that they did a pretty good job encompassing it’s humor and ideas.

Sequel? Yes, “Closing Time”, released in 1994. Personally, I did not like it, but feel free to form your own opinion on it.

Final Word: We all know that one person who jokes around all the time to hide the fact that they are actually terribly sad on the inside. If that person were a book, they would be Catch-22.

Well, that’s enough talking about books for one day. If you want more book suggestions or have questions, you know where to find me. Just follow the ink trail.