We randomly stop people while they browse our shelves. We ask them questions. We share their answers with you.
Early morning. A woman, mid-30’s, (long blond hair, poncho, wind-worn, sweet face, ) comes in without returning my greeting and heads straight for the Non-Fiction section. She clearly wants to be left alone. But something tells me to disturb her anyway. She agrees to the interview for as long as the store remains empty and provided I don’t use her real name or take her picture. I agree to her conditions.
PoaB: Laura, what were you just looking at before I stopped you?
Laura: My hand was on John Waters’s Role Models, but I was looking at Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind.
PoaB: And what were you thinking?
Laura: I wasn’t thinking about either. [Laughs] I have this melody stuck in my head and I was trying for the millionth time today to figure out where it’s from, what it is.
PoaB: Will you hum it for me?
Laura: No. I can’t.
PoaB: That’s okay. Just thought I might be able to help. Why did you come into the bookstore today?
Laura: This is really embarrassing, but I haven’t read a book in like a year! I used to spend hours at the library when I was a kid and when I was in college I only hung out at bookstores. My husband and I got a divorce last year. I guess, that’s “my ex-husband and I” or whatever. And I haven’t done much since then–
PoaB: I’m sorry to hear that. Why did you stop reading? Wouldn’t the distraction, at least, have helped?
Laura: No, I didn’t want to be distracted. That was the point, I guess. I wanted nothing to distract me so I could see if I could stand to be alone with no other stories floating through me but my own. And now, I think, I miss books more than I miss him. Progress. [Smiles wearily]
PoaB: Well, this is a big decision, then, isn’t it? Your first book back from the… the abyss, the brink… your first book back.
Laura: I suppose so. I have no idea what I want. What to start with. I’ve missed so much. Maybe I’ll just start with what’s out now, this week. And just let the whole last year’s worth of books be lost to me.
PoaB: Oh, that sounds too poetic for any of our readers to believe you actually said it.
Laura: [Guffaws] No, I mean it. I almost feel like, if I ignored the books for that long, why should they be here for me now? That’s too weird. You’re right.
PoaB: No, it’s not weird. And the best part is, they will be here for you later if your feeling changes. Do you want something light or not-so-light that was just released?
Laura: Something dense. Something I’ll be tearing my hair out over. Do you know House of Leaves? That but not a novel.
PoaB: I loved House of Leaves— it’s one of my most cherished books because of all the writing inside it I was compelled to do. How about a book about math?
Laura: Lars wa– is a mathematician. What the —-! What is it?
PoaB: I haven’t read it myself and the release date is tomorrow, actually, but it’s called Here’s Looking at Euclid. How strange… I’m assuming that’s your ex?
Laura: Yeah. Yes, that’s what I want.
PoaB: What do you do?
Laura: Ha! I’m a painter. Was. Sort of am a painter. Yeah, I’m a painter. A painter and a mathematician. Isn’t there a novel like that?
3 responses to “The Painter, Laura”
Wow! I never thought about it, but PoaB is a refuge, a therapy office of sorts. Laura reminds me of when I had three children under the age of 7. There were years when I was so distracted and exhausted, I couldn’t even read a magazine article, much less a book. I hope she finds her way back to books.
I would LOVE to talk to somebody who’s read “House of Leaves,” one of the most disturbing, challenging books I’ve read in the last 15 years. Most people seem too daunted by its size to give it a try.
Even if she had tried to read during the past year she probably wouldn’t have been able to concentrate.
Her idea of no other stories going through her head but her own was intriguing, no avenue of escape.
That is an inspired idea, writing about customers. I love Laura. Her situation is so interesting; what book to choose after a year of not reading. I love the way she talks and the things she says – “I wanted nothing to distract me so I could see if I could stand to be alone with no other stories floating through me but my own.” – Brava Laura for letting Aida interview you.