Monday, April 23, 2007

Handle With Care

Last Thursday, I was reading someone's blog and this blogger spoke highly of Down And Out In Paris And London by George Orwell. I can't remember the name of the blog and I want to go back and visit. [Why don't I bookmark? Why don't I take notes as I'm reading blogs? My Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm is sneering openly at me.]

This blogger has also read a whole whack of (as CanadaBoy would put it) M.F.K. Fisher this year, which I appreciated, since I just finished enjoying How To Cook A Wolf over the weekend. (If anything about this blogger sounds familiar, please let me know the name of the blog, so I can bookmark it!)

Anyway, after reading about Down And Out In Paris And London, I knew it was the book for me. I fired off a quick handwritten note to Pablo and shoved it under his office door:

Dear Pablo,
Have you got Down And Out In Paris And London? I thought you might, since it's Orwell!

Fast-forward to today, Monday. Today was a rotten, skulking, dirty-dishwater-drinking, unshaven, unwashed armpit mother of a Monday.

I realized with horror about 10 minutes before leaving work that I'd somehow lost my wallet on Saturday evening when Manfred, Jr. and I went out for dinner. I don't even have an excuse; I was perfectly sober! I didn't have much money in the wallet -- only about W7,000, but my ATM card and my alien card are in there.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to write more like a lady in my blog (hi Mom!) but I gotta admit: I'm kind of fucked right now. I said as much with tears in my eyes at work this morning, but CanadaBoy and Pablo say to give it 3 days before I make that kind of pronouncement. Someone might turn the wallet in, or at least mail the alien card to Immigration. South Korea's really a very honest country.

Although he couldn't have known it when he packed his stuff this morning, Pablo was about to make my scummy day a whole lot better. During a break, he snapped open his bookbag and fetched forth not one, but two Orwell books: Down And Out In Paris And London and Funny, But Not Vulgar, a collection of essays.

Wow. You should see these books! Most expats own rubbishy copies of books: Torn covers, dog-eared pages, pages yellowed and falling like the last autumn leaves, spines so cracked you can't make out a title there...well, you get the picture.

Not Pablo. Pablo likes a pretty book. The two Orwell books he loaned me are printed by the Folio Society. They're gorgeous! Hardback. Sharp black-and-white photos on the book cover, not a dustjacket. Delicately textured gray endpapers. Bright white pages, but not so bright that they cause a glare on the page. 2 sections of glossy photos...speaking of which, these are the kinds of volumes that use the word frontispiece to describe the photo opposite the title page. And, like the marischino cherry on a banana split, the slight but audible creak of the front cover when the book is opened. When Pablo sets out to buy a book, he doesn't mess around. He means business. He means collectible.

[Pablo opens Funny, But Not Vulgar and points out in the table of contents which essays are the must-reads]

Pablo: A Nice Cup Of Tea. That's a good one. In Defence of English Cooking. Such, Such Were The Joys. That's about his life at public school.

Bybee: Oh shit, Pablo. I should've known they were Folios. I'll have to be careful. They're beautiful.

Pablo: You're a reader. You respect books; I trust you.

Bybee: I'll wash my hands every time. I promise.

Pablo: [gentlemanly snort] I don't wash my hands every time. Sometimes, I'm like... [mimes holding a cigarette over the open pages]

CanadaBoy: [reaching out for a book] So, what are these, anyway? [takes one of the books. Pablo and Bybee watch him, friendly but wary. CanadaBoy's an unrepentant dog-earer from waaaay back] Orwell. Didn't he do a book about Burma?


So, to summarize: I can't do anything that requires money or an alien card, but while I'm waiting to see if my wallet turns up, I won't be bored because I've got these shining additions to Mount TBR. Thanks, Pablo.


Anonymous said...

Definitely a bummer when you lose a wallet. Hopefully you will get lucky and it will be returned.

Orwell is a pithy and perceptive writer and Down and Out in Paris and London is a great read.

Too many books and too much time have passed since I read the book for me to recall specific details but I do remember not wanting to stop reading until finishing the book.

kookie said...

Poor Bybee. I hate losing things. I go crazy. I hope your cards return to you soon. Please let us know.

Lisa Jean said...

I think the blog you are looking for is
She reminded me what pleasure I took in that book a few years ago when I read it. Hope your wallet is found.

Bybee said...

since you asked for an update:
Hooray, the wallet is found. The taxi driver from Saturday night found it in the back seat of his cab and brought it by the Language Education Center today. Everything's cool again. I'm the opposite of what I said I was in the blog entry.

I can hardly wait to get cracking on the Orwell.

Lisa Jean,
Thanks for your help. I've got the blog bookmarked now, and yours as well!

Anonymous said...

SO glad you found your wallet -- hoorah for honest cabbies!

Back in the CU days, magnificent Mary Shanahan gave us an Orwell essay on whaling, a piece I'll never forget. He described the process of stripping the blubber off the carcass in terms of peeling an orange. Disgusting and practical and somehow beautiful. You've inspired me to get back in there and read more Orwell.

Bybee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bybee said...

Although I'm sure you've got all the writing you can handle, you should have a blog. That way I'd have another model of how it's properly done. I hope you haven't been reading my scenarios in the last 3 blogs! Cringe. Another thing you're much better at.

I thought I took every modern English class from the magnificent Mary Shanahan that she had to offer. How did I miss that Orwell essay? Maybe it's in one of these books Pablo lent me.

Speaking of Dr. Shanahan, sometimes I "do" that imperious air in my classes -- not too much though -- it scares the hell out of the students & I want them to talk more, not less! But it's great for chronic latecomers and those who don't do homework.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Bybee!

BBC Radio 4 recently had a radio adaptation of Orwell's book "Down and Out in Paris and London"...they usually archive their programs for about a week or so, perhaps they still have this one, I'll check for you!

BTW, I have picked you to do a restaurant tag. I thought it might be fun to hear about some of the restaurants in your city. It's only for fun, so if you can't do it, I will understand completely!

jenclair said...

Oh, I hate days like that (but I do love your description- "rotten, skulking...mother of a Monday")!

Glad Pablo was able to turn your day around!

The Traveller said...

If you see something on a blog but lose it, is usually quite helpful. Not always of course - my blog never comes up when I search for world literature!

John Ottinger III (Grasping for the Wind) said...

I thought you might be interested in the New Notions 5 Reading Challenge

Bookfool said...

My son lost his billfold, a couple of weeks ago, too. He canceled everything after he and his roommate tore their apartment apart looking for it and then . . . get this . . . son found it on the dresser. Ha! I see you've updated and I'm glad things worked out for you, also. :) Oh, and son left his copy of Down and Out in Paris and London in our house. I'll be looking forward to your review. I probably need to read it before he realizes he left it at home. it's one of son's favorites.