The book stalker

Cover of Dining with the MaharajasI stalk books.

I usually spot my quarry in a library. I take it home – mine, all mine.  The library wants it back; I reluctantly return it. Next I do the equivalent of “the end of a relationship drive-by”: I stalk between the library shelves, pick up the book and stroke it a bit. If it is not easy to access, I’ll place the item on hold. Get it out again. Keep it for longer than a month (naughty, naughty). Return it. Give up. Buy it.

Some small children start young with this – you see them at Returns clinging to beloved picture books, with harried mothers explaining in weary tones – yet again – that library books must come back to the library. It is one of life’s first cruel lessons. Of course it is much cuter in a two year old than it is for senior citizens to be caught whimpering at Returns. But still I cannot help myself.

Cover of An illustrated lifeHere is a small selection of books that I have stalked, some of which I now own.

I think Dining with the Maharajas is one of the most beautiful books I have seen. It has a purple velvet cover and opens up to a life of luxury the like of which I am never going to experience. I put it on my Christmas wish list, but to no avail. I still track it down, just to stroke it, every now and then.

I took Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life out of the library three times before I finally purchased it. It is a “must own” book for anyone who nurtures a small but persistent little flicker of creativity. In this book fifty artists allow access to their private sketchbooks and give information about their favoured materials. I could not live without it. I now hold it in captivity.

Cover of HeartburnAnd then there is Nora Ephron. The titles of whose books trace the trajectory of my life: Wallflower at the Orgy; Heartburn; I Feel Bad about my Neck and I Remember Nothing. I wanted them all. Finally a compendium of her writing was published – The Most of Nora Ephron. I stalked once and quickly bought the book for myself. It is My Life on a Plate, also the name of a book by India Knight (which I’ve bought as well).

Authors worry about book sales. That people won’t read printed books because there are e-books; that only libraries will buy books. But they have not factored in the book stalkers.

Have you stalked books and then bought them? Please tell me I am not the only one!

I’ll have what she’s having…

Cover of The Most of Nora EphronWhen Meg Ryan mimed an orgasm in a diner in When Harry Met Sally and a nearby customer said: I’ll have what she’s having, that was Nora Ephron making her mark as one of the soon-to-be most quoted contemporary authors.

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was a screenplay writer and director of such formidable movie successes as Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally,  and Julie and Julia, as well as the author of several books, columns, reviews and blogs.

Ephron made me  feel OK about growing up (Wallflower at the Orgy), breaking up (Heartburn) and growing older (I feel bad about my neck). She didn’t write to change our lives; instead her writing retells our lives to us in a way that sparks recognition, affirms who we are and makes us laugh while we are at it.

From this you can tell that I am a huge Ephron fan and the arrival of her biography  The Most of Nora Ephron is therefore a great joy to me. In fact, my life story can just about be summarised in Ephron quotes:

  • On education:If you love architecture, you need to do more than marry an architect.
  • On betrayal: If I had to do it again, I would have made a different kind of pie. The pie I threw at Mark made a terrific mess, but a blueberry pie would have been even better, since it would have permanently ruined his new blazer, the one he bought with Thelma.
  • On growing older: Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.

I love her writing. I want to write like this.

How about you, do you have an author of whom you can honestly say:

I’ll have what she’s having?