Sunday, July 14, 2013

5 Books to be Caught Dead With

Morning routine: Turn off radio alarm; blink away visions of whatever NPR coverage seeped into that last dream; make the bed; shower; Cheez-its for breakfast; use phone to catch up on latest kitten GIFS while getting dressed with other hand; check GPS app to see if I'll catch the next bus (nope) or the one after (maybe); take vitamins; scrutinize the contents of my bag to gauge whether its contents reflect the idealized self-image I'd like to project in the not-so-unlikely-event that I die in my dash across the Huntington/S. Huntington intersection trying to catch the last bus that could possibly get me to work on time.

You see folks, all that I do, I do for the stricken onlookers at the scene of my untimely death. And all that I ask is that they be seized with enough morbid fascination to appreciate the tableau of my belongings strewn across the pavement. See those ticket stubs for "La Jetée" drifting in the mid-morning breeze? Notice how I didn't keep the ones for "Transformers 3" to pollute your rosy vision of my late self? And check out my splayed wallet; I hid the old Wal-Mart gift cards in back under my organ donor ID and the punch card for the local vegan sandwich shop. I'm not vegan but I'd like you to think I was. Please tell everyone you know about this unknown dead girl who so generously left the world her pristine vegan kidneys. Mourn her not because she was young but because her blood-spattered bookmark was less than a chapter from the end of Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Some tips for making a good last impression:

1. Plausibility - Tempted to keep a copy of War & Peace on hand in case you bite the big one? Rookie mistake. Same goes for Moby Dick, Infinite Jest and In Search of Lost Time. If your book outweighs most newborns, no one's going to believe you haul it around just in case you get stuck in line at Starbucks. Consider instead this striking yet lightweight edition of Marcel Proust's poetry for big name cred that won't leave the mortician sneering at your pretensions.

2. Missed endings - Anyone who knows me knows I'm never without a short story collection. For the sake of avoiding awkward conversations I usually explain this as a product of my short attention span. Between you and me though, I'm just worried about making my way through 300 pages of rising action only to die right at a cliffhanger. No sir. Might I suggest Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You? The yellow cover provides a sunny contrast to any grisly death scene, plus we have it on our bargain table for $6.99.

3. Traveling abroad - Keep in mind that by expiring in foreign climes you represent not just yourself but your country. Strike back at the Ugly American stereotype by tucking Sjon's From the Mouth of the Whale into your passport case. Bookseller Natasha recommends this beautifully designed Icelandic translation. Fun fact: the author is BFFL with Bjork and wrote some of her lyrics. Major street cred, no?

4. Not Anna Karenina - Sorry bro. Great book but too meta for this by far. Get your final dose of searing Russian pathos with a pocket-size copy of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground instead.

5. Practicality - If, like me, you appreciate a dark yet brilliant pun and obsess over funeral arrangements to a degree society only seems to expect of weddings, is for you. Youlo (which I like to think is also a riff on YOLO - how great would that be?) is $50 and worth every penny. Keep a record of all your post-mortem whims and desires so that when the time inevitably comes your loved ones will know to encase you in carbonite.

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