Monday, August 30, 2010

Dangling the Carrot

I just got a new job. This is good. It's at a carrot factory. This is less good. The hours are, shall we say, rather long. This is good and bad. Good, as the pay will be good. Bad, because working eight straight days for 85 hours and spending another 12 commuting eats up a huge part of your life. That's almost 100 hours out of a little more than a week. The pickings are a little bare after that. You scrape a minute off the ground here, find a few seconds around a corner there. Make a little pile and maybe you have a nice shiny hour.

To help myself through this I need, well, a carrot.

Dangle me something and I will chase. And my carrot to survive carrots is, of course, books.

On my only day off (after helping some family members move) I found some time to slip off to a bookstore. A chocolate iced-frappuccino in hand, I wandered. These were much better carrots than the ones I blasted with a water cannon for eleven or twelve hours a day.

So many covers, and pages, and words. So many sentences strung and set to dangle like bright Christmas lights.

I went with no set agenda. Just the lure of possibility, the dream of the unexpected. There's nothing quite like a bookstore -- tens of thousands of little treasure chests all set to be opened.

Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm hunting cawwots.

I perused. Fingers sliding down rows, tap tap tapping on spines. Some I slide out. A glimpse of a cover. Words on the back. A flip of pages just to get the heft and feel of the book -- a sense of the texture of the pages, of how the book will fold and feel in my hand. Each book has a unique quality, vibrating at its own subtle and unique frequency.

Eventually I splurge, buying two instead of one. I end up with the new trade paperback of Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stair and Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor.

Magical carrots. There was something particular about these books, about the covers, the pages, the weight, the feel, the subtle and particular thingyness of the books and the stories they promised. They were the ones. I'd be back of course. One needs more than two carrots over the course of a life. But for now, these were the carrots I wanted. The chosen ones.

Now if only I had time to read.

And what about you? What are your carrots? Do any of you have book rewards? Get this done, succeed at this, survive that, and the new book by your favourite author will be yours? What are your favourite carrot books?

Because everyone needs carrot books. Right?


Kristi Helvig said...

Congrats on the new job. Carrots are my daughter's favorite food and now I can say I 'know' someone on the inside. :)

My carrot last week was Mockingjay. I said I wouldn't read it until I finished my final revisions on my ms. I finished and later today, I will start Mockingjay! I agree that it's always important to have a reward of some kind to look forward to. Not that I could never have an actual carrot as my reward--my daughter would eat it.

Scott said...

"tens of thousands of little treasure chests all set to be opened"

Absolutely love the metaphor. Just made my day, seriously. I'm writing that down.

Mira said...

This was beautifully written, but 85 HOURS A WEEK??? Is that legal? Do you HAVE TO???

Wow. Well, they say shooting water cannons at carrots is good for the writer's mind. Gives them a chance to think and muse. But 85 hours a week!

Okay, this is when I get really mad at the current publishing system and how the writer can't make a living wage. It just burns me up that a writer as good as you are, Bryan, has to spend time in a carrot factory. So idiotic. And not just for you, but for the people who could make money off of your books. I'm MAD.


Well, I'll spare you my ranting, since you have limited time. And I guess the bottom line is congrats on the new job!

Use that extra income to buy a really big carrott - you deserve it!

R.S. Bohn said...

Yep. I make a wishlist on Amazon to keep track of them, bookmark sites with author's chapbooks and small press books, and when I deserve it -- more than deserve it -- I go through and decide what I want most out of all of them.

Right now, the top two are:

The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago

I am giving myself until this weekend, after this week from hell is over. And then they're mine. Mine! Mine, I tell you!

85 hours is a lot, though. If I worked that many hours, I would feel I deserved four or five carrots.

Deb Salisbury said...

I can't decide whether to wish you congratulations or condolences on that job. What a schedule! I hope it gives you lots of fodder for writing, once you have time for it.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Ha ha! Lots of great writers had miserable day jobs! Faulkner! So I stand in good company. Maybe it's an omen. I'm gonna be the next Faulkner! Surely that's what it means. Right? Right?

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm hunting cawwots.


My carrot was Mockingjay, and I had to exercise some serious willpower to finish my edits first. But it was necessary because they were so all-consuming - both the edits and the carrot. I consumed the carrot, but really it bound me up in its world and zapped all other thoughts from my brain as I hurtled to the end.

Good carrot.

Mira said...

Bryan, don't be silly. You'll be much better than Faulkner.

Matthew Rush said...

I don't consider books a privilege, but rather a right. When my child is being punished, and loses all her privileges, the one thing I will not ever take away is her right to read.

But of course, buying books, and giving oneself permission to spend that hard earned money on them ... is another animal.

Bryan: when you have time please write a horror flash fiction about a man who gets his arm trapped in some industrial equipment at a carrot factory and ...

Adele Richards said...

'You scrape a minute off the ground here, find a few seconds around a corner there. Make a little pile and maybe you have a nice shiny hour.'

That was beautiful and made me smile throughout. You're a kindred spirit when it comes to bookshops....they are my catnip...all the possibilities!