Greta Garbo in A Woman of Affairs

Shallow Not Stupid

The nuns warned me I’d never have a "real" job if I couldn’t make it to the end of class, but those crucifixion chicks were confusing me with somebody who wants to get up in the morning for bores and chores. A job, real or imaginary, wouldn’t leave me time for my secret vice.

It’s best done in private but can be done in public. It’s not illegal—yet—but provokes hostility in people who don’t share the addiction. In England, the birthplace of literature, reading is treated like doing a jobbie—ugly but necessary when your auntie gives you a book token or a colonics voucher.

My dad agreed with Chairman Mao when he said, "Reading ruins you, really ruins you." But the Chinese midget stayed in bed all day reading, occasionally interrupting his book to order an execution or a hot chick. Meanwhile, Mom couldn’t stand dust, so books were banned in our house, apart from the shelf of fake leather ones with hollow insides. It’s creepy enough that your parents fucked to make you without having to live with their totally tragic taste as well.

It was always dark when I escaped to the library, eyes peeled for Pete the Pedo. The library smelled sexy but I was normally asked to leave by the librarian, who had a man at her nose but no sign of one anywhere else. I had to hide under a big plant when I wanted to read something from the adult section.

Characters seduce me more than plot. I would fantasize about being one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heroines, like Jordan Baker, who cheats at golf, and I’d prefer her to play poker. I got a dark-angel bob after reading Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks, who said, "If I ever bore you it will be with a knife."

You find out interesting shit in books, especially biographies, which walk the tightrope between filthy gossip and varnished truth. But don't judge a book by its cover, because the author didn’t design that. Rather, judge it by its title and opening line. If you hate the first page, it can only get worse.

Garbo was addicted to reading, usually about herself. She wanted to die in a car crash wearing a green hat after reading Michael Arlen’s novel The Green Hat, which became her movie A Woman of Affairs. Marlene Deitrich liked to seduce her favorite authors, and prolly every other person who crossed her sex-mad sauerkraut path, though I don’t envy her the hairy manic-depressive Hemingway.

My evil twin, Carole Morin, stole my name and made me a character in her novel, Spying on Strange Men (available for pre-order at Amazon). Though the only man I’ve been spying on is Mr. Lash, and he’s not strange.

I’ve promised not to sue my evil twin if I don’t like the other Vivien Lash—unless she’s fat, obvsies. The other Viv will never age. I hope she gets to murder somebody with bad shoes, then be rewarded with a happy ending. Sometimes life imitates art. She's me, but not me, trapped inside her twisted love story, never getting sore feet from rushing about in Louboutins. If she has some flaws, these can be the faults of fiction, but if she’s funny and fabulous, I’ll take a cut of the royalties.

Some people get put away for telling lies and others get paid to make up lies for a living. The reader responds to a book as much as any other contact sport. It exercises the imagination instead of the muscles, and both have an effect on the heart. As Mr. Lash says, "It’s not business, it’s personal."

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Apr 24, 2012 16:58:00

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