The Reader’s Conundrum


I picked up two books on the way to the train this afternoon. One, Ammon Shea’s Reading the OED, because I read Nicholson Baker’s charming review of it in the New York Times, and had one of those moments where I enjoyed the review so much that it doesn’t really matter if the book is of the same caliber. Though, anything that imparts such useful knowledge as the word “lant” (to urinate in ale so as to give it extra kick) or “pissupprest” (to pass on urinating in one’s beer by ‘holding it in’) is definitely worthy of attention.

Shea begins with the letter “A” and the arrival of his new set of books. “My Oxford English Dictionary arrives at 9:27 one Monday morning, brought by a deliveryman who is much cheerier that I would have expected anyone carrying 150 pounds of books up a flight of stairs to be. Five boxes, containing twenty books that promise to take up the next twelve months of my life.”

Raging bibliophile that I am: this opening says ‘S-E-X.’

As difficult as it is to put this book down, I also have Victor Gischler’s Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse (bought at the same time; the bookstore clerk’s head about exploded). Gischler’s opening line: “This is how Mortimer Tate ended up killing the first three human beings he’d laid eyes on in nearly a decade . . . ”

I know. Which one to read first? Tough call . . . tough call . . .