Sunday, March 02, 2014

Colleagues who read

Pat was down-to-earth, frank, and smart. She was friendly but never tried to put a rosy glow on anything. She could turn my “I can’t talk now I have work” into an entertaining, 20-minute, largely one-sided conversation about her Ohio aunt’s miserable driving. A conversation she’s likely forgotten about Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier was for me what clinched our friendship. When she spoke German, her American accent made me afraid of my American accent.

And it was a most remarkable, a most moving glance, as if for a moment a lighthouse had looked at me.
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

Carl was guarded, and wary of co-workers in a “I’m only here to work” kind of way. I respected his space but it was difficult because he was the best-read colleague I ever had. Bolano, Houellebecq, McCarthy, Knausgaard. Despite his apparent ignorance of women writers, Carl was a magnet.

Where in this pukehole can a man get a drink? he said.
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

James was a dork in the best way - stupid jokes, elaborating into absurdity, puns, and intellectual fetishes. He was my mirror image, with a beard. He lent me his copy of the silly Portuguese Irregular Verbs, a must for Germanophiles and Germanophobes. 

Professor Dr Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld often reflected on how fortunate he was to be exactly who he was, and nobody else. When one paused to think who one might have been had the accident of birth not happened precisely as it did, then, well, one could be quite frankly appalled.
Alexander McCall Smith, Portuguese Irregular Verbs

Frieda was not terrific at her job and I was her boss so there was that. But she was an easy-going and curious person. She was lanky and modest, a great smiler with an engine of a laugh. She got excited about story ideas at first, but wasn't great on the follow-through. We swapped a number of books and never agreed about any of them and I was sorry to see her go.

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.
Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

Hans and I sat next to each other for years. He was a bubbly snob who drove to work because only riff-raff take public transportation. Most of the office disliked him because he barked, but I enjoyed his good points. His favorite book was Brideshead Revisted, and though I wanted to do him the favor, I never read it. I am grateful to him for introducing me to John Banville, whom I’d not heard of and who has since enriched me immeasurably. 

This is the only way another creature can be known: on the surface, that's where there is depth.
John Banville, The Book of Evidence

Barbara and I are friends in any case and since they moved her desk opposite mine she has noddingly endured many of my book gushes. She lives out of town and thus only ever really shops at the train station, where she found a crappy bookstore that at odd times has some good English remainders. The other day she sent me an email from the shop: “I’m in the bookshop and they have The Luminaries. 5 euros. Should I get two?” Yes.

It is a feature of human nature to give what we most wish to receive.
Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

1 comment:

rallentanda said...

To think that Barbara exists is worth this post alone. I cannot imagine someone contacting me from a book shop and asking me if I would like a certain book.But then you get white roses from work colleagues for your birthday.

You are blessed working with someone like this.Maybe the war made Germans much nicer than everyone else or maybe they have been out of the trees much longer than their Aussie counterparts many of whom are still in the orangutan stage of development. See the country's new Prime Minister for a good example.

I have noticed Germans are very helpful and polite as tourists down here Two carried my surfboard and a bag up a steep flight of stairs.I am sure if I had asked them to make me tea and bake me a cake they would have.

But I digress this thread is about books and the sharing of I am always interested to see what you are reading. Cheers!

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