I started light—meaning something small and found a volume of just the right heft titled The Bridge over San Lu by Thornton Wild, a story about a group of Mexican peasants who lived on a suspension bridge over a vast jungle paradise. All things considered the reading went well. After that I tried on a more substantial volume, One Flew Over t by Ken Kes, a novel about a heroic nurse who fights off a mad criminal named Murph, who finally attempts to electrocute her. There were other highlights. The Crying of Lot 4 by Thomas Py involved a gang of looney friends who worked at the same post office, and somewhat ominously appears to be the place where the phrase “going postal” was coined. Ulys by James Joy was the toughest read I took on, but it was worth it. Something to do with a girl named Molly whose efforts to find a boyfriend were constantly being thwarted by her grandfather, a dude named Bloom.
But no book at The Library had quite the effect on me as the one I picked up on a fateful evening as the summer wore on. The Portrait of Dor by Osc involved a photograph the narrator had taken of someone, perhaps himself, in flagrante delicto. To make matters worse, somewhere about halfway through, the photo began talking! (I switched to gin thinking the book was probably British.) The virginal love interest of the narrator was terribly distraught over the photograph, which would from time to time appear in ghoulish Halloween garb. The Day of the Dead motif eventually culminated in the setting change to Yucatán peninsula, which by a similar process led to my own switching to mescal as libation of choice, which may have been a mistake. The last pages are a bit of a blur. The collapse of the English class system was followed by a wild foxhunt through the Yucatán prairies. As the tragedy of the plot came to its culminating moments I may have been crying hysterically—drinking mescal is like pouring gasoline on the flames of a lost love, but try it while reading a tragic love story like The Portrait of Dor. I think I was cut off at some point. It’s not entirely clear whether I finished the book and was led to the parking lot or was simply led to the parking lot—I do remember the book being forcibly removed from my hands. And so there I was alone under the sky of South Florida, as alone as the virginal heroine of The Portrait of Dor was under the Mayan sky, though I could only hope the virgin sacrifice planned for her would not also be my fate. I slept in some nearby bushes and woke up with a blinding headache in the wee hours of the morning. I now see why so many people don’t read. Too dangerous.