by David Macpherson
In the fall of 1994 I didn’t have a TV, so I bought used paperbacks and read them for the evening’s entertainment. It was Amherst, Massachusetts, and downtown had 6 or 7 bookstores, most of them with used or remaindered sections, and I could get a weeks worth of reading for just a few bucks. Richard Brautigan’s books looked promising because they were slim and cheaply priced and the covers always had photos of Blond Long Haired Brautigan with a cool sexy sixties chick standing next to him on it. But the books always felt like a little bit of work, so I passed on them. I don’t recall why that day I decided that I was going to read The Abortion: An Historical Romance of 1966, it was probably the photo of the girl in the short trench coat and the long leather boots. What can I say, I was a sucker for finely wrought literature, even then. I mean, I was aware of the title, and that things could not go well in the tale, but Richard Brautigan and the girl looked so relaxed and with it in the picture, it was like friends inviting you over for a tasty meal that you could never identify what the ingredients were. What I do recall was the length of time I dawdled before purchasing it. How I lingered. How I didn’t want to go up to the girl behind the counter with my buck twenty-five copy of The Abortion. What would she think of me? What would she think I was? I was reading a book called The Abortion, and a battered copy at that. But I was becoming conspicuous and I had to act, didn’t I? I averted my eyes, I felt my breathing go rapid. I put two bucks on top of the book in the hope that the currency would obscure the title. I was a fifteen year old all over again trying to sneak a copy of Penthouse, the way I perspired like a mythical river situated in the underworld. She didn’t even look at me as she gave me my change and went back to her graduate level literature work that she was laboring at. I read it that night. Taken by, not so much the abortion plot, though well-written, but with the beginning portion where the narrator worked in a library where they accepted all books written by all citizens. People would just come and drop off the books they wrote but never got published. I liked that. I liked how writing and storing that writing and reading those books if you are so inclined was so important.
Of course, now, my chagrin at purchasing a book called The Abortion seems like so much nostalgia. In Amherst, there is only one book store that has survived. Now I guess I should be embarrassed not for the title of the book but for the idea that I still buy books. That I still weigh them in my hands and decide if this will be the one for me, the great experience that it might become. Now, if you even can find a bookstore that houses the thoughts of other people with titles both kind and harsh, do you bother to worry about anything so trivial?