Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stealing books again, or not

I had time to read while on my long sojourn, but the pickings were slim. Hotels often have a little library in an out-of-the-way spot, consisting of all the books previous guests have read and discarded. It stands to reason that for the most part, these books were the ones not worth bringing home.

Jonathan Kellerman's horrid psychological thrillers, Ruth Rendell's dark and nauseating mysteries, Patricia Cornwall's forensic tomes that are stuffed full of fulminating dead and bloated bodies covered in maggots. *shudder* What choices! Yet one does come across the odd treasure.

The pool cabana at the hotel in Bali had its own weary and water-stained collection, but this was a bit more varied than the usual fare. Mainly because half the books were Dutch translations of best-sellers, a third were Chinese, and the rest a smattering of German, French, and Japanese books. In the end, there were only four books in English, so I worked my way through three of them. The fourth, an Anita Shreve novel, I couldn't force myself to pick up.

Patricia Cornwall's Trace was hideous, and I vowed on my sadly-only-imaginary Chinese-translation Bible to never read another of hers. Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl was amusing and entertaining -- perfect beach reading. But the last one, My Invented Country, by Isabelle Allende, was the best.

I'd tried to read Allende's fiction before, but apparently one magical realism book per lifetime is my personal quota. (Perhaps because I overdid it and read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude either two or three times.) Yet Allende's autobiographical book, about her experiences as a writer, a Chilean, and an expat, was compelling and fascinating. The sensation of feeling oneself "different" or "other" -- and of finding everything in the world quite curious and strange -- she describes it beautifully.

So beautifully and so truthfully that I desperately wanted to steal that book.

Yet once again, I resisted the temptation, because how cruel would it be to reduce the Bali pool cabana's English catalogue by 25%? Really not on. Even I could not bring myself to be so unkind to future reading guests.

Thought of it later: I should have left my copy of Eat, Pray, Love there! But that would have been equally mean. And I'm just not that kind of girl.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lost my bloggin' mojo somewhere in China

I know, I know. I left you there, hanging on tenterhooks, in India of all places. When I fell off the Blogger/Facebook grid, some worried that I'd taken the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love too seriously and had run off on a real spiritual quest, to an ashram or something.

Hardly. First, the quality of the bedsheets at ashrams is -- and I'm just guessing here -- abysmal. And second, there's the risk that you'd run into someone just as exhausting and as self-absorbed as author Elizabeth Gilbert whilst there, and voilà, holiday ruined.

With traveling companions, better the devil you know...

Pros:
Pays all the bills
Lots of energy
Adventurous
Funny (ha ha) much of the time
Cons:
Extremely picky about customer service at hotels
Always has to be holding the map or he gets cranky

than the devil you don't...


Pros:
Wealthy, famous and published author
Adventurous

Cons:
Seems like kind of a diva
Prettier than me
Younger than me
More famous than me
??

Anyway, perhaps I didn't "get" the book enough, but all I could think while reading it was, "I'm glad I wasn't her BFF, listening to all that blubbing". I know. Terrible friend, you can say it.



But I'm upset with China as a country, because I found THIS in the hotel room in Shanghai...



and I didn't even get to blog about it, or post it on Facebook, because guess what? No Facebook or Blogger in China! It was a blow, to be sure. I had a zillion things to say, and I was going to catch up on my blogging once I arrived in Shanghai, and NO DICE! It was especially odd because I was under the mistaken impression that Bibles were illegal in China, but apparently my info is years out of date, because there they were, in every hotel room.

Sadly, I did not steal THIS Bible either, because I was having some serious baggage heft issues, and the zip on my rolling duffel was already terribly strained. I will make Mr D bring one home next time he's in Shanghai. Why? I don't know. It has become a rather strange compulsion, I admit.

[And the world record holder for largest collection of stolen dual-translation Bibles is... expateek!]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Temptation

Many people come to India on spiritual quests. I've come along simply as company for my hardworking husband. Yet I sense a slight progress in my spiritual development, even though I certainly didn't come here seeking it.

Could it be because I'm reading the mega-best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert? Possibly. It's certainly an appropriate book for this trip, as one third of the book details her search for spiritual enlightenment in India. She was at an ashram, I'm at Le Royal Meridien (with less opportunity for sacrifice and self-denial, obviously).

And yet... Look what appeared before my eyes when I opened the drawer in my room.




Yes, indeed. Temptation in the form of two books. And one, a Gideon Bible! In the past I've had a little bit of a problem with liberating these babies from hotel rooms.

Yet, this time? Not so much. Is it because I am becoming a more honest and virtuous person? Probably not.

Is it because the Bible was not translated into Hindi? Perhaps.

Is it because I have still four weeks of travel ahead of me, and already my suitcase is bulging? Yes, absolutely yes.