Monday, July 21, 2008

It's a good thing they don't weigh carry-on luggage


I never anticipated how difficult trying to decide what books to pack for an entire year would be. I even planned this out several months ago, but it's still hard. The books that I specifically need to take in order to study my comprehensive lists, or for my online Science Fiction as Literature course are simple. It's the "extra" books that are ripping my heart out. Here is a list of painful questions I had to ask myself this morning:

1. How necessary is the red book of John Cheever stories?
2. Can I somehow wedge the complete short stories of Flannery O'Conner in there?
3. What if I get halfway through the year and I'm really depressed and don't have any Richard Hugo poetry?
4. Is it better to take the complete works of H.D. (which weighs a lot) or only to take Trilogy? What if I start reading Trilogy and then NEED the rest of the poems?
5. Should I take the books of poetry I love the most, that I reread constantly, or should I focus on taking books of poetry that are new to me?
6. What's better; books that you can learn things from (in terms of craft) or books that will comfort you?
7. Anthologies, or a select group of complete books? If I take anthologies, I might have a greater variety of things to read, but since I'm planning a book-length project of my own, learning how other writers have arranged items in a book--specifically the order they chose for their works--might teach me more.

Any advice from people who read this post would be greatly appreciated.

9 comments:

Erin said...

Two things, Ben (I know I could just tell you this, since you're sitting right beside me as I type, but your post looked lonely without any comments, so thus, I comment):
1. I like how all your blog entries include lists.
2. I recommend taking new stuff more than old, comforting stuff. You might read some of that comforting stuff if you take it, but I remember constantly looking for something new to read when I was living in China.

shannon said...

taking a few serious go to's--ones that make you feel whatever emotion you're needing to feel, is a good idea. but to give yourself a broad scope, bring new stuff. i recommend, in fact, bringing something you're not even sure you like, because a new place and new experiences may make you fall in love with the genius poetic expression that is jewel.

Sally said...

Have you looked to see if any of your favorites are in the public domain and therefore available for free online? I know books are nicer than computers, but if it's the actual text you need to reference you might be able to get by without the physical book.

Benjamin Dean-Cartwright said...

This is all good advice. Thanks you three. The only problem with the public domain texts is that sometimes the government decides to block all access to Western websites, sometimes for several weeks, if there's something going on (this happened when Erin was teaching over there and the American spy plane went down in Chinese airspace).

I almost bought an Amazon Kindle. That is actually a frustrating story; if Kindles had been out for about a year, there would probably be more texts that I need available to purchase, and then I'd happily use that the entire time. It's sort of like when Itunes came out; it took awhile for the licensing to catch up. I think I'm going to have to go through all the books again. Man! This is hard.

Jason said...

Benny,

Just a heads up, but when I went to Japan they DID weigh carry-on baggage. The lady in front of me in DC obviously had a bag that was too heavy and they made here check it. It probably depends on the airline, but just wanted to pass along the warning.

- Jason

Arman said...

I say fill your bag with 50 lbs of bricks and watch the look of surprise on the TSA person's face when they open it up. It would make for a good post on your blog ...

Hmmm...books...

You could always get a phone card and call back here to have someone read you part of a book you miss...

Why don't you just beam some books into your head with that PC6 thingy?

Good luck over there!

Mamacita said...

Dear One,
You have a photographic memory. Pretend you have been taken captive. Memorize the ones that are essential. It will force you to decide what is essential.

Mamacita

charles said...

Take Sturgeon's "Touch of the Strange" over the John Cheever. Less thick and more satisfying for the soul...
I've found that I take twice as many books as I really need for a long trip. You'll want to see the country, meet the people, play with your wife. I'd suggest leaving caches of books with friends---if it turns out that you are really jonesing for Raymond Carver or Pablo Neruda, they can ship them to you (or the embassy).

Benjamin Dean-Cartwright said...

Chuck,

I bought the Sturgeon book. It's in my carry-on and I'm planning on reading it on the plane. It's been very hard to keep myself from starting it early.