"Take hamburgers. Here, hamburguesas are really bad. It's known that Americans like hamburgers, so again, we're idiots. But they have no idea how delicious hamburgers can be. It's this ideal burger of memory we crave...not the disgusting burgers you get abroad."
This is a quote from the movie Barcelona which I saw years ago. I only vaguely remember the rest of the movie, but this quote about hamburgers stuck in my mind, and struck me as appropriate for this post idea. Except when I typed it out and really thought about it, it wasn't really appropriate at all. But I liked it as a title so much that I decided I didn't give a rip.
What this post was actually supposed to be about was not an ideal hamburger of memory, but a mythic hamburger of imagination. But for me the hamburger is a book. (Bear in mind I'm still slightly feverish). I was wondering if I'd started ordering books in my sleep. Every few weeks, a book shows up in the mail, often from an obscure town in the U.S. or U.K. Sometimes I recognize the title, sometimes I don't. But I know it's some book that I've read a review of and wanted to read, and the library didn't have it, but one of the booksellers on abebooks.com did.
For the most part, the books cost under two dollars. The shipping costs are higher than the cost of the actual book. The entire transaction rarely exceeds ten dollars. But still. I go to the library every week because I'm trying NOT to spend any more money on books, and, almost more importantly, we have no more ROOM for books. The only reason I'm spending that ten dollars, and bringing another centimetre-and-a-half-width shelf-taker-upper into the house is because, once I realize the library doesn't have it, it becomes infinitely more desirable than the thousands of books the library has. Because what if it's The One? The mythical book of possibility that will change my life, unlock the doors of perception, shatter the sacred truths, and put an end to cellulite forever?
Of course, it's all usually a huge disappointment. The package arrives, and... it's just another book. Sometimes it's enjoyable enough, sometimes it's quite dreadful and you have to wonder what the hell the reviewer was thinking. Sometimes it's quite magical, most often when it involves science fiction/fantasy short stories by women, now that I think of it. I put these ones in my triple pile of books on my bedside table and read them one at a time, trying very hard to stop myself, when I reach the end of one, from rushing on to the beginning of the next (if I have to turn the page over for the next one it's easier to stop, otherwise it's a pathetic display of me trying to wrest the book out of my own hands). They are wise and splendid and occasionally they blow my doors of perception right off the hinges.
It's not that strange a phenomenon. It's always easier to imagine that the book you can't read is better than the one you have, or the one episode of Lost that you missed was the Best One Ever, or the thing you didn't order off the menu would have been ten times better than what you chose. And sometimes it's just incredibly fun and giddy-making to realize that I am a grownup with my own money (well, my husband's own money -- I'm workin' on it) and I can go ahead and order a book if I want to -- I actually do remember being incredibly frustrated as a child when I wanted a book and couldn't get my hands on it fast enough. On the other hand, I'm a grown-up and I should realize that I don't need to have every book I read about. At least not before I get to the bottom of my tripartite bedside table pile.
If you want to read the story that made me NEED the Ellen Klages book, (it's about a library!), the absolutely freaking amazing author allows that here. Of course, it makes me despair of ever writing anything one-fiftieth as good. But the Ideal Burger of Memory can't help it if it wrecks you for McDonald's.