A truth about myself:
if, at any moment, you ask me what I’d rather be doing, the secret answer is probably “getting quietly plowed on a solo bar mission, completely engrossed in a good book”.
But, as much as I love reading, I do have this problem – I read very quickly. Especially, for some reason, when on planes. What with the trips to Fargo, DC, and Jamaica, I’ve been going through books faster than underwear over here.
Bored with my usual diet of Joyce Carol Oates and historical Chinese novellas, several months ago I solicited advice from a friend on what to read next.
“The Fermata”, he responded, almost immediately, going on to describe it as a novel about a man who can stop time. Think Zack Morris, except instead of using the frozen moment to make pithy, character-appropriate judgements on his peers, our protagonist uses his temporal vacation to disrobe women – their textile unsheathing becoming a replacement for the Everyman’s porn flick. “It’s HILARIOUS” my friend assured me. “A work of genius. You’ll love it.”
Two days later, finding myself in possession of four forgotten Barnes & Noble gift cards, I picked up a copy.
Now. Everyone knows, right, that there are books you read in public and books you read… well… in PRIVATE. The Fermata, as I discovered, manages to deftly toe, then suddenly leap ACROSS, the line between the two. A fifth of the way in I’d pegged the book as racy, for sure, but so ingeniously devised and articulately phrased that I could easily overlook their baser elements. Somewhere around chapter seven, however, things veer sharply into the realm of literary pornography – still astonishingly well-composed, but definitely not stuff you’d want your mother to find under your pillow. By that time, though, it was too late. I was hooked on The Fermata like a long-haul trucker on homegrown meth.
So pretend that you’re me. You’re on a plane somewhere over the Great Lakes. You’ve probably only had three or four hours of sleep, and you’ve just finished your second bloody mary. You’re reading this book, helpless to stop, but you’re starting to feel pretty weird about the subject matter in relation to your physical proximity to the stranger in the next seat. Then, at the culmination of a long and particularly graphic passage, you read this:
FUCK ME WITH YOUR TRUCK! JACK THAT UGLY DICK AND FUCK MY ASS WITH YOUR TRUCK!
I MEAN OH MY GOD SERIOUSLY, I’M HALF-DRUNK ON A PLANE HERE. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH SUCH RIDICULOUSLY BIZARRE SHIT WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK ON A PLANE. I’ll tell you what *I* did, my friends – I completely lost it. Seriously. I was literally, hysterically, Laughing Out Loud, while my seatmate tried her best to politely ignore me. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that reduced me to such a state, but it was like a cold glass of water on a hot summer day. Like, just when you’re so bored with everything and wondering whether you can even muster an honest smile anymore, all of a sudden you’re cracking up like a lunatic from one well-placed, over-the-top sentence and life is magic again.
The Fermata. Look for it. But proceed with caution – an X rating wouldn’t begin to cover you here. And also, be careful where you read it… I’m pretty sure that after the flight from Minneapolis to Boston, TSA has me on their watch list.