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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Reasons to live, but no reasons to steal

My friend presented the following ethical dilemma to me: She was sort of considering stealing a copy of Amy Hempel's At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom from the public library. The used book prices on should give some indication of how rare this book is. I must be the luckiest girl in the entire world, for I found a copy of the book a few years ago at a used bookstore in Albuquerque. Aware of its scarcity in the used book world, I was excited to find it on the top of a stack of books someone had just sold, so I tried to play it cool when I asked about the price: one dollar. It is the best thing I've ever found at a used bookstore. Even though I'm well known to be the least responsible library patron of all time, I couldn't take her plan into consideration. "Think of how many people want to read that book! Think of how many people need to read that book!" We decided she could photo-copy it.

I'd recommend reading Hempel's Reasons to Live before At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom because it contains my favorite contemporary short story, "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried." I do a little homage to "The Most Girl Part of You" (from At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom) every time I drink hot tea and ice water at a meal.


Anonymous Anonymous on Sat Feb 25, 08:13:00 PM:
i don't think a day goes by where i don't think about that story, some part of it -- the "tell me things i won't mind forgetting, make it useless stuff or skip it" -- or the part about the chimps...i think it changed my life, but in untenable ways. i mean i just haven't been the "same" since, but i don't know what's different. it doesn't have anything to do with treating people in my life differently, and to think about it too deeply scares me. so i don't think that deeply about it beyond recanting chunks of it in my head when i am deeply, deeply sad. it's so good. but i'm with you on not advising stealing a book from the library. stupid chuck palahniuk talks about buying it for $75, you know, because "you will never write this well." he definitely won't.
Blogger Meg Lyman on Tue Feb 28, 04:40:00 PM:
Speaking of reading... I finally read the book you gave me years ago "The Djinn in the Nightengale's Eye" by the same author as Posession. I really enjoyed it. Sorry it took me so long to read.