Today was literary in a way that only the days of the unemployed can be. After meandering in and out of consciousness as my roommates hit their snooze buttons and eventually got up to shower, I sat up in bed and read the final pages of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind (La Sombra del Viento, in the original Spanish). The novel, essentially a love letter to books and Barcelona, is an engrossing mystery that, like The Da Vinci Code, left me certain that it's only a matter of time before someone makes a movie out of it. However, masterful bits of figurative language in unexpected places make The Shadow of the Wind much better, in my view, than The Da Vinci Code, as does Ruiz Zafon's absorbing depiction of Barcelona, a character in its own right.
Lovers of realism will find the coincidences that hold the plot together preposterous and charge that some supporting characters approach caricatures. But The Shadow of the Wind, like the radio soaps that captivate so many of its barceloneses, isn't trying to be realistic. On the other hand, if it is trying to entertain, it more than succeeds.
Toward the end of the book, one of the characters laments that "great readers are becoming more scarce by the day." The line was like a condemnatory index finger pointing up from the page. Because I haven't been a great reader of late. Before, I could point to my long work days as an excuse. No longer. Practically the only thing keeping me from reading now is the multitude of Intervention episodes available on YouTube.
I vowed that I would set off for the library immediately after turning the last page of The Shadow of the Wind. Or after just one episode of Intervention.
When I arrived at the Biblioteca de Santiago, I learned that I would have to provide proof of address -- which I didn't have -- before being allowed to check out a book, presumably so that the library staff would know which window to throw a brick through if I were ever late making a return.
After arriving home, I scanned my bookshelf for books I hadn't yet read. Dejected after my failed mission to the library, I chose the skinniest one, Un asunto de honor (A Matter of Honor) by Arturo Perez-Reverte. My Spanish former roommate had told me it could be read in one sitting, which I figured translated to a week for me.
As it turns out, he was right. By the time I returned Un asunto de honor (thumbs up) to the shelf, I was still unemployed and there was still a good hour and a half of daylight left. So I went to the nearest Bibliometro and jumped on the Bolaño bandwagon. By the second page, Llamadas telefonicas had convinced me that 1) I'm ignorant and 2) not all books can be read in one sitting.
Leaving my last job has meant making sacrifices. For example, I now replace pop and real fruit juice with the Chilean version of Tang on a fairly regular basis. But I've gained a lot more than a fluorescent orange tongue. Like time to read. And write. And (try to) cook. And visit friends without falling asleep mid-conversation out of exhaustion. Sure, it's about time I got serious about the job search. But not for a second have I regretted my decision to take a breather from the working world -- or forgotten how fortunate I am to be able to do so.
If everything goes according to plan, there will soon come a time when I will have to make time to read. I know from experience how hard it can be to motivate yourself to pick up a book at night when all you want to do is fall asleep watching Intervention. Which is why it occurred to me that it might help to have a book club. The books could be about Chile, living abroad or none of the above. We would have at least a month to read each book and then could talk about it in person or group blog about it (or both). What do you think?
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