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Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks

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There's a silly thing I do every year that I've been doing for many years now, where I pile up the books I read during the year after I’ve read them, one by one, one on top of the other, for no reason more profound than habit. Every year I think, "I'm not going to do that again this year. What a silly thing to do!" Next thing I know, it’s January 1, and I’m taking the old pile down, and I’m starting the new pile a few days later. And away we go.

A large pile of about 43 books next to smaller piles of books.
Reader, he read.

Above and to the right you'll see the pile from 2022. I almost reached the ceiling. Had a couple of the books I read this year not come from the library, had I not re-shelved a re-read or two back where I'd found them, had I not spent a large chunk of the last week of the year allowing my brain to turn into a puddle, I may have made it. I'm not sure what I'd do if I actually did make it. I'm too lazy to cut a hole through to the next floor of the house.

In the middle you see the top of the TBR pile. It’s a regularly evolving thing, shifting with my priorities, sliding bit by bit to the right. The bottom of the TBR pile comprises two small bookcases full of books, elsewhere in the house; the membrane between the top and the bottom of the pile is quite thin. I’d probably be mildly shocked if I took stock of how long some books have been in TBR limbo, considering just how many of these books I’ve been absolutely, positively going to read next for ages, now.

The Star Trek oral history, up: that’s the Christmas stack. I don't think any of those books were on my radar ahead of the holidays. E. gets me. Not enough to actually let me cut holes in the ceiling, though. Good thing I’m lazy.

Not pictured, though it should be, is the fun new year’s tradition when I take down the read pile and try to figure out where the books go. It’s getting a little harder each year. Once upon a time, there was this stuff called “shelf space” in the house. Now there’s a lot of books all over the place than inevitably beg me to re-read them as I pull them out of the shelves to move them around to make room for the new influx. It’s funny.

Like, this year, I'm coming this close to starting 2023 with a reread of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, because it's one of my favorite books ever and yet I'm not sure I've ever tried to actually write why. I’ve read it, I think, four times; it is an odd, long book to consider a comfort read, and yet. As of today, it’s been seven years since I finished my last reread, which I know because, when I last read it, I spent about eight months reading it out loud to my first kid, and there’s a photo commemorating the finish that I’ll just about never not take the opportunity to share:

The newsletter author with his eight month old son, smiling, next to a paperback copy of Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon.
Reader, they read.

My face is less puffy, these days; meanwhile, I doubt my kid’s going to fit into a boppy now. Against the Day, of course, has stayed the same size, and while I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to dive back into it yet—that Christmas pile up there beckons—I am overdue to check back in with the Chums of Chance, so I've moved the book back over closer to the TBR pile. New year, same old me.

In any event, this interstitial mostly stands as a flimsy excuse to quietly work through some of my most unhinged feelings about the passage of time, and to let you know that if you can read this, you have successfully made the jump with me over to Substack. I’m still figuring it out; I think I have commenting turned on, in case you want to make friends with each other, there. I've got a few more slender books from 2022 to tackle, once I finish un-melting my brain, and then we're off into 2023, which may or may not involve Middlemarch. Seems optimistic, whichever version of me moved that to the top of the TBR pile, but, hey, sure, okay!