Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Like Cheap Books and I Cannot Lie - You Other Brothers Can't Deny

(post copyright 2013, Dawn Weber)
This book stinks.
Yes, I've just read something that absolutely stinks, and sadly, it's by one of my favorite authors; an amazing humorist who could turn his crayon-written grocery list into a brilliantly funny bestseller.
I've borrowed the book from the library before, read it, and always swore I'd buy it for myself one day because it's great. But this one stinks.
When I say "stinks," I mean "odor," of course, I mean "reeks."
It smells like cigarettes and failure. To say that it smells like a homeless dude would be an insult to homeless dudes. No, this book smells like crackheads.  
Cigarettes, failure and crackheads.
Up until now, I've had great luck with a certain dubious bookstore in a certain dubious section of Columbus. My-husband-the-cop advises me not to enter this part of town.
But I make it a rule not to listen to him.
And I drive to this place, merrily, secretly and regularly, because of the fabulous, cheap books - both new and used - that I find there. I hide my car stereo faceplate, lock my doors, say a little prayer and walk in. Quickly.
Once inside, it's pretty nice and surprisingly thug-free. I can exhale, relax the grip on my purse a bit, and, giggling with glee, pick up titles by authors like Natalie Goldberg, Dave Barry and Nora Ephron for pocket change. About a year ago, on a whim and because it cost $1, I purchased what soon became my second all-time favorite book, "She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana," by Haven Kimmel. None of these - not a one - stunk.
I went there last week, bought several books, and - me being me - I brought them all home and wiped them down with Clorox wipes. This is just my standard, OCD, dubious bookstore procedure - I hadn't even noticed the stank yet.
Then, I picked up my prized purchase, the best of the bunch, and started reading. Suddenly, I smelled cigarettes and crackheads; I smelled trash and failure.
At first, I thought maybe it was me. There were times, in the early 90s, times of struggle and heartbreak; of draft beer and the Taco Bell Value Menu; when I could have certainly been classified as a failure.
Although I still enjoy the occasional draft beer and TB Value Menu item, I'm not a failure anymore. Neither am I a smoker, nor crackhead.
Still, it had been a long, humid, sweaty day, so I paused reading and pulled my blouse to my nose. Nothing. I raised my arms and surreptitiously sniffed the pits - a useful skill I learned as a teen. Nope. Wasn't me.
I lifted the paperback up to continue, and I smelled the stench again. My other purchases were fine - no stank - but this one - wow. I really wanted to read it, but every time I brought it near my face, I threw up a little bit. Something had to give.
So I had an idea. Three ideas, to be exact. I really should just lie down until these ideas go away, but I tried all three, in quick succession:
I sprayed it with "Kiwiberry" Febreze
(It smelled like "Kiwiberry Failure.")
I stuffed it with "Tropical Coconut" dryer sheets.
(It smelled like "Tropical Coconut Cigarettes.")
I spritzed it with "Early Morning" Lysol.
(It smelled like "Early Morning Crackheads.")
When those didn't help, I held it far away from my face - an arm's length - and I couldn't smell it, but neither could I see it. Nothing worked.
By now I'm sure you're wondering what book it is, and who wrote it, but in this age of Google Alerts, I don't want to name the author and have the poor guy pull up his morning email to find that some unknown blogger wrote a post saying his book stinks. I'm writing a book myself right now, and karma is a bitch.
A bitch who slaps.
A bitch who slaps HARD.
Even though I won't mention the author, you'll be relieved, no doubt, to know that I did it: I risked life, limb and hepatitis, and I finished the smelly crackhead book. With a "Tropical Coconut" dryer sheet held over my nose like a MacGyvered dust mask - I read all 323 pages of that whiffy thing.
This book was awesome.
This book stunk.
I closed it, flipped it over examined the price tag:
"$3.99 - Used."
Yeah. You got that right. It was "used."
Possibly as toilet paper.
In a crack-house.
Some crackhead somewhere has great taste.
And I'm glad I powered through. I need antibiotics now, but hey.
Such is the power of a really good read.
(If you're looking for a great book - or dying of curiosity - email me and I will tell you the title, on the down-low, to preserve the author's integrity. It's not his fault that some smelly derelict owned the book before me.)
Below is my latest book excerpt - 26 essays done now!
A bunch of my writer friends met another of my favorite authors, Dave Barry, (who is NOT the author of the crackhead book, btw) in Connecticut, and all I got was a lousy can of PBR. In Ohio. On a porch:

. . . Don't ask me what I'd say to Dave Barry, if I ever met him. The truth is, I have encountered a few celebrities, and I always manage to make a blithering idiot of myself by either:
A: Gaping at them in open-mouthed shock (The Aretha Franklin Elevator Incident), or;
B: Gaping at them in open-mouthed shock, and then shouting, "Holy shit!" (The Peter Gabriel Backstage Incident)
I shouldn't worry about it, because the truth is that Dave Barry and I will probably never meet. Still, I often fantasize that we'll bump into each other at some writerly event. He'll read my work, love it, set me up with his agent and we'll become best writerly buddies.
Reality: never an obstacle for me.
The more likely scenario, (the Pending Dave Berry Incident): I'd gape at him in open-mouthed shock, and then shout "Holy shit!"
I did have one chance to stalk, um, swear at, er, meet him, at the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) conference in Hartford, Connecticut. I write a surprisingly cuss-word free humor column for the local paper, and in 2011, I managed to win an NSNC award for it. No one is sure how this happened.
I attended the 2011 conference in Detroit to pick up my award, but because of finances, I haven't been able to go for the past two years.
These kids' iPhones don't buy themselves, you know.
People, I have a tip for you: When it's Saturday night, and you're feeling really blue because you can't afford to stalk your favorite author at a conference, by all means - go ahead; turn on the computer and pull up Facebook. There, you'll find dozens of pictures of writer friends, all having tons of fun at said conference and mingling with said author, who is obviously down-to-earth and cool enough to hang out and tolerate tons of gratuitous photos . . .
Stay tuned!


  1. I too have an empty wallet and did not get to stalk anyone this year. If you ever finish the book, I'll just stalk you. Deal?

  2. I stalk YOU and you don't even know it, that's just how good I am.

    I haven't bought any stinky books lately, although I do have the obligatory almost-70-book pile in the bedroom. Given the stack of books in my to-read-next stockpile, I shall never die.



  3. Those cuss-free columns are a real struggle sometimes. I don't even use the word "frikkin'" in the one I write. Then I return to Blogger where I can proudly say (or write, actually), "That frikkety frikkin' frikless frik."
    Then I tell fart jokes.
    Speaking of Dave Barry, while I've never met him, I refer to him in a sales pitch: "I'm no Dave Barry, but I'll make you laugh as much as if you were reading Dave Barry. Meaning.... if you can't afford Dave Barry, you can afford me."
    Strangely, I have yet to be paid for what I do.
    Pull my finger?

  4. Wanda - sounds like a plan :)
    Pearl - Oh, I was stalking you clear back in 2008, when God was a boy and I wasn't even blogging or commenting yet. Stacks of books by the bed are a sign of how long we'll live? Best news I've heard all week!
    Penwasser - You're a columnist too? Cuss-free to boot? Awesome! Here - let me pull your finger...

  5. "Yeah. You got that right. It was 'used.'Possibly as toilet paper. <-This is why you win awards. You are one hilarious lady.

    I'm glad the stinky book was awesome.

    Be well, my friend, and keep writing!

  6. Robyn - Yeah, it was worth it. What's a little hepatitis among great books? ;) Thanks, lady.

  7. Reminds me of when I used to get packages from my smoker mom... open up the box and smoke would come wafting out. Unbearable. We'd have to fumigate everything and what couldn't be fumigated went in the trash. *sigh*

  8. Surprisingly thug-free.... Dear Lord, where is that place! ;) I love Nora Ephron. She is sorely missed. Kiwiberry... I wonder what that smells like. I'm more of a pineapplegarlic kinda guy but only when I'm drinking milk. You know the type.

    You don't? Well now, nice to meet you too. I'm a friend of Vapid Vixen so I won 't bite. You sound pretty upbeat. I could use some of that.

  9. Blue - Well, nice to meet you! I don't bite either. Not hard, anyway. I'll head over and check you out.
    Paula - I had a dear relative who was a smoker, and she made homemade spaghetti sauce that she froze and gave to us. It was wonderful, except for the smell of cigarettes - always present, even in her food. :(

  10. It smells like mildew, nothing will help. I admire your grit in reading it! I need to be stalked by good looking women just to know how it feels!

  11. Seriously? Only YOU could write an entire post about a book that smells and make it SO amusing.

    Remember, you have to finish all of your antibiotics. Just because you're feeling better is no reason to quit. No one likes a quitter Dawn. Or someone riddled with stank book diseases.

  12. Indigo - as Vixen says, no one likes a quitter!
    Ray - Oh, I'm sure you have plenty of stalkers. :)
    Vixen - thanks, lady :) Your comment made my day. I still can't believe I got 700 words out of a stanky book.

  13. That's one thing about e-books. You don't have to worry about where they've been. Nora Ephron was my Dave Barry. I fantasized repeatedly about us being bff's when she was alive, but I fear I would have only embarrassed us both if we'd actually met. Am planning to stalk her in heaven though. I heard nothing can go wrong there. Looking forward to your book, my uber-funny friend!

  14. I think my textbooks stink, simply because of how expensive they are.

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