My name is Jay Ponteri, and I wrote Wedlocked, newly published by Hawthorne Books. The book is a memoir about a rough patch (imagine: Grand Canyon) in my marriage. It considers what it looks and feels like to be a lonely (hu)man inside a marriage, what it looks and feels like to push away the one who loves you, what it looks and feels like to FAIL as a husband, to say, You are not what I want. The prose is deeply private. It looks inside an American marriage and describes what it sees through the lens of human loneliness. (And believe me, there was plenty it didn't see.)
Normally I would go on and on (imagine: Grand Canyon) about my thoughts regarding marriage in our culture, about my own work and the work of others, where and how I write, my Selectric typewriter, the craft of nonfiction prose, et cetera,
but I would prefer to discuss Powell's, or more specifically, myself at Powell's. That is to say, I'm not only blogging on Powells.com but I'm blogging on Powells.com from Powell's downtown store (E. Burnside) about My Experience of Powell's. I have embedded myself inside the Blue Room Battalion of Booksellers, although admittedly at the moment I'm in the World Cup café (Brown Room!), bellied up to a long table with other customers looking at unpurchased books and/or typing away at their own books. Beautiful factoid: every other person sitting in an independent café in Portland happens to be writing a book of poems or a novel or both.
Here is my sincere confession: I'm a bibliophile!
I come to Powell's on average 4-5 times per week, about 20 minutes per visit. My days off from Powell's vary: usually one during the week (Mondays and Wednesday are always tentative) and either Saturday or Sunday. When my wife and son are out of town and I have extra time on my hands, I hit not only the downtown store both days but also Powell's on Hawthorne (late evening), and if I'm really bored, I might venture out to Beaver-tron to Powell's at Cedar Hills Crossing. I buy at least two or three books a week, sometimes more, and I've been living here in Portland since 1999.
You do the math.
I care not to (my wife doesn't either). For more on that, read my memoir, Wedlocked.
During the years 2007 to 2009, I started getting very paranoid about going into Powell's downtown store so often. A handful of factors gave rise to my heightened feelings of paranoia. One: I had a part-time job at a wind power company located on NW 11th and Couch, i.e., the building adjacent to Powell's. And I will admit that I had some downtime on that job. Enough said. Two: I spent WAY too much money I didn't have (read: taking my credit card to its limit) on books. This spending was unfortunately another secret (among too many) I kept from my wife. (Read my memoir, Wedlocked.)
So at that time, when I meandered through the Blue Room, seeing the same five or six booksellers shelving books or sitting at the information desk, I was absolutely certain, CERTAIN!, these people knew how unhealthy I was; they understood how my unhappiness — that is, the deep loneliness I felt in my marriage at the time — gave rise to various kinds of secretive behavior (for more information, purchase Wedlocked by Jay Ponteri),
e.g., like running up a credit card my wife didn't know about. This is what the experts call Impulse Buying — an addiction where one buys buys buys, and the crisp burst of slick serotonin one gets from reaching toward that purchase, from the feeling of The Raised Self (the feeling you are the only person who sees you) Reaching Toward the Other, IS THE POINT. What I was purchasing is NOT the point, although I disagree with myself! I love my books, all of those beautiful words revealing other people's inner lives, our inside skins, helping me to feel less alone in the world, helping me to feel both that I'm idiosyncratic and part of something larger and commonplace. This was more complicated than any of us can imagine, which is to say, I loved reaching out toward that new or used book I thought would "complete me," would "help me" work out a problem in my own work; I mean to say, this was a book or writer that a writer-slash-reader like me MUST read, MUST possess.If you do not liberate this book, somebody else will. If you don't have this one book, one less thing stands between you and death.
This was all shimmery, delusional thinking, and even though I still rock such illusions, I no longer have a credit card, and I carefully budget how much money I spend on books, thus removing my bibliophilia from the level of secretive-shameful to viewing it as a public eccentricity with limits!
Tomorrow's Tuesday — my favorite day of the week, the day new books are released! My dispatch will include a meditation on book condition, plus I will buy too many books! Tune in, baby!
More from Jay Ponteri on PowellsBooks.Blog:
- Let Me Introduce to You: Kevin Sampsell
- May I Recommend to You Some Books to Read?
- Tuesday’s My Favorite Day!
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Jay Ponteri directs the undergraduate creative writing program at Marylhurst University and Show: Tell, the Workshop for Teen Writers and Artists. He is the founding editor of both the online literary magazine M Review and HABIT Books. Wedlocked: A Memoir is his first book.
Books mentioned in this post
Jay Ponteri is the author of Wedlocked: A Memoir