Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Books to Take on a Trip?

Okay, so now that I am (somewhat) done climaxing over Wallace, I have to turn myself over to the more pressing matter of What to Bring, Book-Wise, on my Four-Day Trip to Boston.

The book one brings on a trip is everything. It has the potential, literally (literally), to be the perfect travelling companion, the one that offers new perspectives and clever insights.

It could also suck and leave you all alone in a foreign land.

The things that one ought to take into consideration when choosing a book:

1. Length
This probably isn't the time to take on The Anatomy of Melancholy. One's suitcase is only so big, and one is hopefully going to do at least a bit of non-reading activity on the trip. Yet something too small and lightweight is inadvisable as well, in case there's a terrible storm and one is stuck in the hotel room for the whole trip. You (this "one" thing is pretty irritating; I don't know how Virginia Woolf did it) need a book that's just right. Which for me is probably 200-400 pages.

2. Depth
This is tricky. On the one hand, you probably want to take a break from high-brow and open up something light and airy, something debonair to go along with a breezy respite. On the other hand, you might be of the type who can't go a day without exerting her mind at least a little bit; if your vacation is too carefree, you might want to contrast it with something that requires careful reading. In any case, something that tickles both your mind and your fancy is advisable.

3. Image
Okay, so this is the thing that I worry about a great deal and then pretend that I don't. The truth: some books are cooler than others. Your book is an accessory; it's a statement. Eggers says - "I am hip yet sensitive." Nietzsche and Kafka say - "I am fiercely intelligent person and wish to be perceived as such." Danielle Steele says - "My ovaries are middle-aged." The right book attracts the right company allows the right conversation. Success!

I will ruminate some more, but right now I'm leaning towards Proust. I still have about 200 pages left of Within a Budding Grove, and his book is kind of quietly intelligent. Or perhaps Middlemarch. Or maybe I should just forget everything and read Kevin Guilfoile's Cast of Shadows, which I won from a contest and feel like I'm kind of obliged to read. Plus it looks pleasantly scintillating.