When old folks die, nobody wants their books. So relatives load them up and off they go to Goodwill where I find a lot of books I would never have known about or that can hardly be found anymore.
A book I recently found was written by Stephen Greenblatt called The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. This book is not at all what I expected it to be. I expected it to be about machines and processes. Instead, it was all about books.
Rather, the history of thoughts being put into printed form and shared through the ages. But this post is not about that book. More particularly this post is about what happened to me as I was reading the book one morning at Waffle House.
For those unfamiliar with Waffle House, the restaurant chain has a rarely changing menu of awesome comfort food. They’ve been around since before I was a kid. I remember my stepfather, also known as The Devil (you can read about him in my memoir, Twinkle), loved to eat steaks at Waffle House. He’d come home and almost wax poetic about how awesome his steak was while we’d be wondering if we’d get enough to eat at the next meal.
But I don’t hold a grudge against Waffle House because of that. Frankly, I love their Cheesy Egg Breakfast with bacon, raisin toast, hashbrowns covered and smothered and chunked and peppered. Yummm…eeee.
So there I was, enjoying my fave breakfast, reading Greenblatt’s book The Swerve, and laughing out loud and underlining passages and laughing out loud some more.
Boring into my consciousness, through all the 15th century revelry I was enjoying, was a man’s voice. He said to the people around him, “Oh, she’s laughing! I thought she was crying.”
I was crying, but only because I was laughing so hard. I pulled my attention back to Poggio and Bruno and all that hilarity of opinion they were sharing. About 30 minutes later, as I stood to leave and went to pay my bill, the woman checking me out said, “So, what are you reading that is so funny?”
I said, “Well, see this book is about the history of books. I mean, you wouldn’t think that, but it is. So this guy, Poggio, who was an apostolic secretary to a pope in Rome who got himself in a heap of trouble and so Poggio lost his job. Anyway, Poggio found this book by some other dude called Lucretius who one thousand and some odd years before wrote this awesome epic poem that pretty much was his opinion about how things got here. Now, Lucretius was a follower of Epicurus who was all about the pleasure principle, but not what you might think. Hahahahaha! And so, anyway, Poggio finds the old manuscript and starts sharing it around, and next thing you know this other fella, Bruno, starts to write some stuff about religion and how God simply cannot control everything and then — HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! — he wrote this paragraph that I simply cannot read here because you guys would think I am…”
Now, you got to understand that right about halfway through the above explanation, everybody in Waffle House has stopped eating and cooking and serving and they are staring at me. But like a train that just cannot put on its brakes fast enough to avoid the wreck, I just kept on barreling through.
“…you guys would think I am, like, TOTALLY crude and rude, but suffice it to say that Bruno had God deciding how far one louse would walk in a given day — HAHAHAHAHHAAAAHHH! But it gets better because this guy, Stephen Greenblatt who wrote this book here —”
I hold up The Swerve for everybody to see.
“— has brilliantly put together this timeline and how that one poem by Lucretius totally impacted our modern day thinking process around politics and science and religion. Oh, man. It is totally awesome.”
It is at this point I hand over my money after I let out a contented sigh.
The woman says, “Well [very long pause]…thank you for sharing.”
With that permission given, people continued eating and serving and cooking and I walked out still grinning and thinking about all the fun those 15th century cats were having with books.
But I did discover something about myself: I was born in the wrong century because those guys and I would have got along great!
Then again, maybe I just need to find my modern day peeps.
Where are they hiding?