Saturday, March 19, 2011

Take the Cannoli, 15/100

Be prepared for a Sarah Vowell-athon.

Sarah's newest book, Unfamiliar Fishes, comes out on Tuesday. To celebrate, I'm reading the two books of hers I haven't yet read: Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World, and Radio On: A Listener's Diary.

I love Sarah Vowell's writing. As if that weren't apparent. It's probably a bit beyond nerdy that the biggest thing I'm looking forward to next week is her appearance on The Daily Show Monday night. Stewart and Vowell! Two of my favorite people! If Colbert interviews Bruce Willis afterward I'll probably pee myself.

Take the Cannoli is a series of personal essays revolving around her adventures being a historical tourist and her experiences growing up as a music nerd in a small town. But do you know how awesome it would be to be a historical tourist? A travel writer? Finally someone out there who appreciates those big white highway markers as much as I do. Oh, so this is where Poe spent his freshman year in college? I can see him playing ultimate frisbee out on the quad now!

Here are some snippets: practically everyone else in the Western world who came of age since Gutenberg, I lost my innocence the old-time-religion way, by reading the nursery rhyme of fornication that is the Old Testament and the fairy tale of bloodbath that is the New.

While I'm hardly the most optimistic American, I did not share the Y2K group's wholly cynical picture of current events. Heaven, such as it is, is right here on earth. Behold: my revelation: I stand at the door in the morning, an lo, there is a newspaper, in sight like unto an emerald. And holy, holy, holy is the coffee, which was, and is, and is to come. And hark, I hear the voice of an angel rough about the radio, saying, "Since my baby left me I found a new place to dwell." And lo, after this I beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, of shoes. And after these things I will hasten unto a taxicab and to a theater, where a ticket will be given unto me, and lo, it will be a matinee, and a film that doeth great wonders. And when it is finished, the heavens will open, and out will cometh a rain fragrant as myrrh, and yea, I have an umbrella. post-Watergate, post-Vietnam America, odds are that the more you shoot for Frank Capra, the more likely you are to end up with David Lynch.

Phone rang. It was Dave, a writer friend. We talked for over an hour mainly about punctuation. He has big plans for the ellipsis. He's mad for ellipses. I tell him, yeah, I have a similar affection for the parenthesis (but I always take most of my parentheses out, so as not to call undue attention to the glaring fact that I cannot think in complete sentences, that I think only in short fragments or long, run-on thought relays that the literati call stream of consciousness but I like to think of as disdain for the finality of the period).

I'm a sucker for the em dash -- probably because I have no idea what the grammar rules are concerning it. I can use it freely without English major guilt!

The neighbor woman, who was out watering her yard, saw the shopping bags and asked what we'd bought. Amy showed off her new candy-colored sweater and her hoop earrings and hot pink pants. The woman congratulated Amy. She then turned to me, pointing at the rectangular bulge protruding from the small brown bag in my hand. I reluctantly pulled out my single purchase--a hardback of the The Grapes of Wrath. My mother looked at the neighbor, rolled her eyes in my direction , and stage-whispered, "We're going through a book phase." ... The book phase would bloom and grow into a whole series of seasonal affiliations including our communist phase, our beatnik phase, our vegetarian phase, and the three-year period known as Please Don't Talk to Me.

There comes a time halfway through any halfway decent liberal arts major's college career when she no longer has any idea what she believes. She flies violently through air polluted by conflicting ideas and theories, never stopping at one system of thought long enough to feel at home. All those books, all that talk, and, oh, the self-reflection. Am I an existentialist? A Taoist? A transcendentalist? A modernist, a postmodernist? A relativist-positivist-historicist-dadaist-deconstructionist?

I'm an aggressively-passive skeptic-romanticist.

No comments:

Post a Comment