Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Slice of Beauty

I was raised Protestant. But, there are two things that cause me to cross myself in the same light as a devout Catholic: the mention of Borders, bookstore extraordinaire, and the mention of Mr. Sisters, an ephemerally exotic—and exotically ephemeral—gay nightclub between the university and downtown.

(Allow me to stop and mention here that the gay bars in Orlando are all in the general vicinity of downtown, with the exception of a leather bar off Edgewater. Meanwhile, there’s a straight bar directly across the street from the university. And, probably three more that line the pavements of the main thoroughfare that connects UCF with City Beautiful.)

These were my haunts, my loves. My brand loyalty is through the roof. And once I find a roofing company that I like, I’m sure this won’t be so disconcerting. But it was back when Borders was operational that I found this exceptional novel, Little Bee.

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, was sitting on the shelf of the top sellers list. I was, at the time, picking out top sellers for an independent study course. (My course director said to me, “choose the books you want to read and send me the list and I’ll approve it.” I nearly fainted. I thought, This is what graduate school is supposed to be like. This is academic heaven. I have arrived.) I stared at the cover. I flipped it over to the back and saw nothing in terms of plot description. I thought, what the hell. I brought the book up to the register. The girl, about 19 and built like a highly proteined concrete wall looked down at me and said, “Have you read this yet?”

And I looked up into her acne pocked face, at her dark brown eyes, and said, “No I haven’t. I was thinking about getting it for school, but I don’t know what it’s about.”

And she said, “I just finished it. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. It’s really good. You won’t regret buying this book.”

I had felt uncertain, up until that point. But with the fervor and the finality that she suggested I purchase Little Bee, I relented. Maybe I was afraid that if I didn’t, she would backhand me across the counter and send me flying. Maybe underneath it all I felt like she was a fellow reader suggesting a book that had changed her life and would change mine too. Maybe I was too lazy or too embarrassed to take the book back to the shelf. But one way or another, I bought it, and after reading it, I can safely say the same.

I’m not going to tell you what this book is about.
It’s definitely awesome.
You won’t regret buying this book.

R.I.P. Borders and Mr. Sisters.

You will be missed.

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