Chris Bolton on Naked Memories
The opening pages of a great book are like the first, electric moments on a date
when you realize the person you're talking to is feeling the same connection you
are, and at some point in the near future you're going to see each other naked.
Great books are like that minus the naked part.
I experienced that sensation as I perused the first few pages of Nick
Fidelity, a Christmas gift from my father, back in 1995. It was one of those
books that hits you in exactly the right way at precisely the perfect moment.
Since I was dealing with my own relationship miseries at the time, the list
of all-time, desert island, top-five worst break-ups that opens the book struck
a chord that resounded deeply through me.
Six years later, Richard
Man entranced me in the same way. The opening pages drew me in with a voice
so singular and entertaining, I knew it would stay with me for years to come.
I was right; I've read Straight Man three times now and continue to find buried
treasure in each new visit.
Club had a similar effect, albeit in reverse. In the spring of 1999, I was
in my fifth year as a projectionist for a movie theater chain in Eugene, Oregon.
Because much of my job involved sitting around waiting for something to go wrong
which it did, fairly often I was accustomed to reading at work
in between movie showtimes. But I wasn't accustomed to being so engrossed
in a novel that I stayed in the projection booth for an hour after my shift
ended to finish the book. It wasn't until I'd closed the cover that I realized
the degree to which Fight Club had impacted me, viscerally and irreversibly.
It forever altered my perception of what fiction and society could
The opening pages of Season
of Mists the first Sandman
book I read, back in '94 carried me inexorably into a fantastic realm
the likes of which I'd never experienced. Neil
Gaiman's saga is rich in mythology, resonant with emotion, and bursting
with unforgettable characters. I've read the entire series twice now
the second time in chronological order and the story only grows deeper
with familiarity. Never before and only rarely since had I encountered
such depth of feeling in the comic-book form as in Gaiman's magnum opus. Perhaps
for nostalgia's sake, or possibly because its overtones of regret and melancholy
ring true for me, Season of Mists remains my sentimental favorite of
Like pop songs, certain books have become indelibly intertwined with a time
and a place and an event in my life and, as time passes, with a very
different me. As a projectionist, I used our movie schedules as bookmarks and
turned my books into time capsules. Years later I will go through the books
on my shelves, uncover a schedule from eight or ten years ago, and suddenly
find myself transported to a past that is near yet distant, vivid yet irretrievable.
I read Barbara
in Heaven and Pat
of Tides while dating the first woman who would break my heart. Opening
those books a decade later, I am assaulted by sense memories many pleasant,
others that were once utterly unpleasant but have since had their sharp edges
filed down to poignancy, even wistfulness. Certain kinds of pain turn bittersweet
Since I started at Powell's in the summer of 1999, the year I moved to Portland,
I've done a lot more reading and my horizons have broadened considerably. I
can only imagine how the next ten years will look in hindsight, and wonder at
the books that will stand beside the crucial moments of my life.