Monday, May 21, 2007

Happiness Costs So Little/Archive of the Day

If there's one time I won't complain (and there might be just the one), it's walking after work to Central Park, sitting on a bench in the shade, but with a view of things bathed in near-perfect sunlight, temperatures in the mid-60s, friendly but competitive people of various ages and sizes playing softball in front of me, caricature artists bargaining with passersby, and cracking open a book. A book I should have read a long, long time ago, The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I started it last summer while staying upstate with a couple of very good friends, but each night I was reading it in the pleasing but distracting haze that followed drinks and conversation with those friends. I made it through about fifty pages, but didn't retain much and eventually stalled. Tonight, I read 21 pages in about 35 minutes, meaning that for the first time in a while, my reading was leisurely -- and with reading, leisure also allows for focus. It's a health-giving combination.

They're a hell of an opening 21 pages. Here's a taste:
In the evenings I usually watch television or go to the movies. Weekends I often spend on the Gulf Coast. Our neighborhood theater in Gentilly has permanent lettering on the front of the marquee reading: Where Happiness Costs So Little. The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie. Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.


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