I decided to go out this evening.
First I went to Bookworm’s new setup on Church Street. There, I started skimming the shelves from the first one on the right, moving from right to left, front to back, room by room.
I picked up the first book I saw, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin. I like to hold something.
The store was quite big. Even though there were 30-40 people there, I could still find an empty room in which to fart in peace and have no one hear.
There was a Tamil-speaking dude in the store. He assumed that no one else there understood Tamil (he said just that out loud, unless of course he was trolling the rest of us), and was giving his companion pretentious gyan about books in the science section.
I picked up The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus and randomly opened it. Page 93: ABSURD CREATION Philosophy and Fiction. I continued reading.
All those lives maintained in the rarefied air of the absurd could not persevere without some profound and constant thought to infuse its strength into them. Right here, it can be only a strange feeling of fidelity. Conscious men have been seen to fulfill their task amid the most stupid of wars without considering themselves in contradiction. This is because it was essential to elude nothing. There is thus a metaphysical honor in enduring the world’s absurdity. Conquest or play-acting, multiple loves, absurd revolt are tributes that man pays to his dignity in a campaign in which he is defeated in advance.
I liked it. Shortlisted.
I came across the science section. Ugh.
Internal monologue: The books in the science section are all written by scientists, and many of them cross over to comment on other issues as well. Why is no book here written by a social scientist, a philosopher or a thinker broadly who crossed over, made sense of some science and wrote about it? There’s Nietzsche, and then there’s Camus, who builds over, around, under Nietzsche with much less impeding prose. It didn’t seem to me to be an indictment of the philosophers and thinkers but of how science is understood these days – what it contains and what it can tell us about the world and life today, and who gets to talk about that.
But what about exceptions like Oliver Sacks and Stephen Gould? I’d spotted Sacks in another section, but more importantly both were blah.
Consider the authors of the science books. There is no diversity. The hits (according to Bookworm) are by the same people who wrote the hits I read a decade ago, even two decades ago. And most of the new writers are writing about similar things in similar ways.
I spotted and hung on to Being and Event by Alain Badiou (two friends had recommended it) and Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky for a bit, but finally decided to go with The City We Became and The Myth of Sisyphus. It’s the first time I’m going to be reading Jemisin.
I went to Blossoms next, to return two books I’d bought there a couple weeks ago and finished reading. I got Rs 350 in store credit. Awesome.
I’d been anxious about where I would eat. I’ve always had Church Street dinners at Coconut Grove but wanted to try something new this time. Brik Oven it was – just because it had people in it, so it must be good I figured.
I picked a fig and onion pizza. It was excellent. The staff was great, too, not entirely reserved but not too chatty either. They had a wood-fired oven that made me think about climate change. Where do we draw the line?
I daydreamed: if I was really rich, I’d set up an anti-growth fund. It would have money I’d give to companies to keep them from doing foolish things in the pursuit of scale or more capital. We’re already seeing this with pharma and online erotica.
I paid the bill and called a cab. So much traffic getting out of Church Street. So much stress for the driver. Wish I could help.
I got my earphones out, plugged them into the phone and resumed compiling a new walking playlist. I called it ‘Dark Energy’ because I was looking for energy but not of the uplifting variety. Des Rocs was the star, but I also loved ‘Cabin Fever’ by Reignwolf.
As we waited at a signal, in a sea of yellow and red lights, the headlights of a car behind us went off just as ‘Outta My Mind’ hit a crescendo. It was a moment, I smiled to myself.
The earphones’ right earpiece kept popping out of my ear all the way home, had to keep putting it back in. I thought my earhole was shrinking. Haven’t stranger things happ–
Hey, it’s raining.
Conquest or play-acting, multiple loves, absurd revolt are tributes that man pays to his dignity in a campaign in which he is defeated in advance.