GOOD books and groceries—like beer and tequila, socialites and squakings—rarely go well together. (I should know—I’ve sworn off tequila more than ten years ago—after having barfed bits of my brain out on a Bacolod to Manila flight minutes prior to touchdown, thanks to copious Cuervo Gold shots chased by beer the night before. Meanwhile, to this day, I remain confused which social category best deserves my working-class rage: uppity Makati coño kids with trust funds or unsophisticated squakings in Quezon City who can’t even ride the train right. But enough of this self-indulgent commentary lest it deteriorate into pure drivel, if it hasn’t already).
As I was saying, good books and groceries don’t go well together.
No one visits a bookstore to get a discount on Kobe beef nor does anyone make a trip to the grocery to try and stumble upon Adrian Cristobal’s Occasional Prose, which remains sadly out of print.
But stranger things have happened.
For more than two years, my wife and I have frequented this grocery, the name and location of which will not be disclosed for reasons that will become self-evident later.
Just last year, the establishment suddenly decided to put up two stalls filed with used, cheap books, many of which I would have been proud to call my own.
Acting on this impulse, I have, in various trips to the said grocery store, I have amassed a number of excellent titles.
Take my recent trip last week.
While my wife was busy figuring out what needed to be restocked in our household—not exactly rocket science for a two-member, one feline family—I trooped to the used-book stands and immediately scanned titles for possible finds. It was, by far, the best decision I have ever made regarding anything faintly related to groceries.
Besides acquiring the 29th issue of Granta, a UK-based literary quarterly, I also got myself a copy of the Granta Book on the Family, a special anthology featuring memoirs of American short story writer Raymond Carver, among others. The last, but not the least, of my literary haul was Best Music Writing of 2004, published by Da Capo press, which I am reading right now.
All three books—expensive-looking trade paperback editions in good condition—set me back by approximately P300, far cheaper than the latest issue of Granta, occassionally sold at Fully Booked for P700 or so.
On another occasion, I have bought Sleeping with Extra Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety by Atlantic Monthly columnist Wendy Kaminer, Bad Elements by journalist Ian Buruma, The Tale of the Scale: An Odyssey of an Invention by Solly Angel, a housing expert.
Which now explains why I will not disclose the name and location of the said grocery store for fear that readers of this blog, however few, may stake out the establishment, hiking competition for good but cheap books.
But since I believe in a level playing field, I will nevertheless give one clue regarding the whereabouts of the said grocery: it’s in Metro Manila. Hardy har har. Why would I take the fun out of grocery shopping?
From the Six Degrees of Separation Dept.
Raymond Carver’s best friend is Chuck Kinder. Besides being a writer himself, Kinder, who also teaches fiction at the University of Pittsburgh, is supposedly the basis of one of the characters in Michael Chabon’s novel, Wonder Boys, which was later turned into a movie. When we were in the US, my wife and I occasionally joined the movie nights that he hosted at his house. I remember seeing the original Carrie movie and Short Cuts, a movie on which a number of Carver’s short stories are based. Short Cuts features, among others, jazz singer Annie Ross who plays, not surprisingly, a jazz singer. Ross is famous for being one-third of what I believe is the greatest jazz vocalist group of the twentieth century, LHR, also known as Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. LHR has influenced similar groups such as The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices.
Picture shows covers of Wendy Kaminer’s Sleeping with Extra Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety and Best Music Writing 2004.