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>Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm

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Hello Book Bloggers:

Well, Bybee’s at it again…or NOT at it, as the case may be. More precisely, she’s fallen asleep with a fresh copy of Middlemarch across her face. Trust me — you don’t know her like I do — it could just as easily be a copy of People magazine that she’s polluting with her slumber breath.

Shudder. What do I care? Bybee’s newest exhibition of sloth gives me a chance to get at this keyboard and give you the skinny on what this girl decidedly did not accomplish this year. Call me a Tough & Cool Inner BookSNOB, will you? I have impeccable taste and a an ironclad sense of literary purpose! Plus, sleeping and eating don’t always have to be be so firmly on the front burner, now do they?

Let’s look at Bybee’s challenges for 2008: She somehow muscled her way to 100 books. She did well on her Pulitzer reading, but she’s hobbling through the Canadian challenge, and someone did not eat her Wheaties for the Orbis Terrarum and In Their Shoes Challenges. And the Graphic Novels Challenge? Please. It was like she slept her way through that whole affair.

I’m seriously wondering if Miz B is really just a pretender to the shelves. Here’s a choice bit of gossip: She forgot (she says) to admit to yet another DNF: She was reading What Maisie Knew by Henry James at Project Gutenberg, and got bogged down and quit right about the time Maisie’s father and her former governess got hitched. She said defensively that the combination of reading James and reading him online was too much — it gave her the headache from Hell. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but after Poor Widdle Susan DNF’d Mr. James, she hid out in the bathroom with a Taylor Caldwell novel for a while. Not tough! Not cool! Wussy!

Bybee also made some resolutions last year. Let us re-examine some of her rash statements as she rounded the bend into a New Book Year all those months ago:

“I want to complete all my challenges and if I don’t, then I want to do a conspicuous amount of heavy lifting on them.” I’ve probably already said enough, but entre nous, I didn’t see any major eyestrain or sweat stains going on this past year.

“This is the year I’d like to get serious about building up my Don Robertson collection.” She did buy The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, but nothing else by the great Mr. Robertson. To be 100% fair, her credit card company went belly-up a couple of months ago, which put a severe crimp in her Internet shopping, but still…by abebooks.com, I sat down and wept.

“Read more books from other countries.” You can take the bookworm out of her native country, but you can’t take the native country out of the bookworm. I beseeched Bybee to read Balzac, to read Things Fall Apart, to crack open that Murakami novel she was supposed to read for book group, but she just turned up Abba’s Greatest Hits even louder and buried herself in her damn Pulitzers. Yes, I realize that Abba’s Swedish, but don’t think I didn’t notice what she was really doing.

“Read more Korean literature.” I’m not a complete Bookbitch. Good on Bybee for spotting that article in The Korea Herald about Park Kyung-ni, who, Bybee subsequently discovered, wrote The Great Korean Novel — Toji. I’ll admit that copies of this book are expensive, but think of the bragging rights! Think of being able to strut your cultural sensitivity towards those who might style her (us) as unrefined, unwashed waegooks (foreigners). Talya offered to lend Bybee volume one of this work, but Bybee’s been less than aggressive about taking Talya up on her offer. If I were running this sorry show, I’d be camped on Talya’s damn doorstep till I had Toji in my hot little hands.

“Delve into more books written before the 20th century, or at least try to go back 100 years to 1908.” Would you be so good to pass me that bottle of witch hazel? I find that if I dab it on my temples, the pain recedes slightly. Three books! Only three! I saw what was happening all year — there was good old Bybee, blithely kicking up her slightly meaty heels in the 21st century, then she tried to mollify me last fall with back-to-back readings of Great Expectations and Persuasion! Then she threw me some weak-assed shit at the very end of December with The Oregon Trail! Who’s sorry now? January 1st found Bybee skulking into Kyobo bookstore, buying the only available copy of Middlemarch for our tenth-anniversary reread, then over to Youngpyoong bookstore, where she found a copy of The Octopus (1901) by Frank Norris. How long will this show of repentance last? I’d like to drop the Bronte canon on her pointy little head while she’s asleep.

“Keep chipping away at the Pulitzer fiction list.” Bybee read 8 of these in 2008, which is respectable. She’s a quirky bookworm; she likes what she likes. I just wish she were both quirky and lofty. Maybe with a little push she can be.

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