Stack Week, Part Three: Time Enough


Stack Week continues, its primordial hunger doomed never to be satiated.  I’ll add some chum to the ever churning polysyllabic sea.


First, a diversion.  

Seven years before he took up the umbrella of the Penguin in TV’s Batman, Burgess Meredith stumbled unwittingly into a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity, a middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. This dimension of the imagination was an area called The Twilight Zone. It was a sort of Negative Zone where masochistic mischief-maker Rod Serling liked to torment people on a cosmic level. He was a bastard and we can’t really trust he’s dead.  

(If you see an achromatic man monologuing in the corner, don’t get on that plane, don’t agree to the plastic surgery, and don’t buy the house on Maple Street. Trust your instincts; “To Serve Man” does sound like a cook book.)

The episode is called “Time Enough at Last” (watch it here). Meredith played Henry Bemis, a man who wanted nothing more than a peaceful afternoon to while away in solace, his nose in a book. He faced all the distractions we encounter today and he did his best to circumvent them. Always a book on his lap under the counter at work, always a paperback in his jacket pocket. Enter the Beyonder Rod Serling with a basket full of apocalypse. Bemis is the sole survivor of world-wide Armageddon. He has all the time in the world and access to all the books on all the shelves in all the libraries of a quiet and duty free planet. 

And then he drops his glasses.    

I often think of Henry Bemis when I slide a new book onto a shelf. Will I ever get to read this?  

See, for me, there is often a vast gap between purchase of book and actual reading of book. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m rich and hoarding the things. Well, I am hoarding. But I’m probably doing so at my own financial peril. It’s a vice. A new book is my cocaine. Hence all the sniffing as I scurry into a Barnes and Noble. Why are you sweating, the salesclerk wants to know. It’s overwhelming, the amount of nonsense we’ve written and printed since Steve Guttenberg’s ancestor invented the press. My eyes are bigger than my stomach or the shelf space at home. And with comics there’s the added allure of glossy sequential art. It’s literary jewelry, and the trade paperback maniac roosts upon it like a surly old dragon encrusted in emeralds and platinum.   

 



I want to stress though, I do read the stuff. But not as much and not as quickly as I probably should. I don’t know if I’m waiting for my own Bemis level apocalypse, but I am guilty of setting down the current book when the fetching young thing moves in across the street.  Speaking of—

You know the hooker district of Sin City? An Oldsmobile sidles up a hazy alley, the window rolls down, nineteen miles of fishnet saunter out of the darkness, blue eyes a’twinkle. There’s a real-life analog of that experience (other than the obvious and direct one). I give you the 50% off bins at your local comic convention. And I ask that you keep them and bar me from entry.  

Wizard World Philadelphia, May 2008. A spring in my step, my hands at the straps of my backpack, wide-eyed and fancy free. The hawkers draw me in. “Half off all books.” They woo me with the simplest of arguments. This book is worth twice as much as we’re asking of you. And every bedraggled orphan of a book in this stall is included in this once in a lifetime offer. Book pimps! And like Pinocchio I am led to a world of hedonistic excess and donkeys and fiscal irresponsibility. The donkeys are metaphorical, but the braying! The braying!

I’d just been offered the gig to write this weekly column, so I took the opportunity to pick up some things for research. Does that sound/smell like bullshit? Well, I didn’t pick up Jenkins’ The Sentry mini for my own enjoyment, that’s for ga’ damn sure (such a martyr, I know). But I did think topical, so I scoured the bins for The Seven Soldiers of Victory volumes. I found three and ended up grabbing the fourth at my local shop. For variety’s sake, I also grabbed something called Marvel Romance, which collects issues of books like Love Romance, Our Love Story, and Teen-Age Romance. Say what you will, but there’s some cool Kirby art in here. And dig the Lichtenstein lookin’ cover art.

What do you get for the superhero columnist who seems like he has everything? DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore (see what I did there?). Young Avengers perhaps? Or how about a volume of Geoff Johns’ JSA that he already owns? I realized my mistake on the train and the first thing I did when I got to my room was look for the original. How does that happen? This is the tragedy of losing touch with your own collection.

I’m not being terribly forthcoming with my stack for a reason. I don’t have a queue. There’s no hierarchy. It’s all about passing fancies and whims and timely interests. I’m reading some Seven Soldiers today because I want a better foundation for Final Crisis (looks like I have some time on that one, har har). But I also want to tackle this Captain America Omnibus. And let’s not forget the second half of Gotham Central to compliment Brubaker and Rucka’s current Daredevil arc.

I keep coming back to the constant threat of time. The never-ending struggle. I want to read the books that matter right now and to do so I must go back and fortify my knowledge base. I want to be a part of the conversation.  

It’s a bridge collapsing behind us. So many pages, so little time.  

I just hope my eyesight holds out.   

 


 

***Also, since I do have this extra copy of JSA, Vol. 7: Princes of Darkness lying around, I need to find it a new home. The reader who submits the best question or topic for a future column gets the book. Write to paul@ifanboy.com by Saturday, June 21st.  “JSA book” in the subject line. I’ll announce the winner next week. 



Paul Montgomery is out there! Out there on the wing! Contact him at paul@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s scary how much I relate to this.  Particularly buying something I already own.

    Yeah. 

  2. I had the same issue with the Lone Ranger in floppies, I was on the bus and a little voice in my head went "You’ve read this" and low and behold…

    I blame the lateness of the book for that one. 

  3. Where does one find that Doom statue? I must have it!

  4. We really need to start a support group for this kind of condition, Stack-a-holics Anonyms. I should sit down with a pad of paper then list all the things I have to read (and re-read) on my book shelf and promise myself to not buy one book more until the list gets knocked down by 25%

  5. I think my reading habits follows your more closely Paul.  While I could live with having a stack, limited space in the apartment prevents me from ever having any real space to sustain a stack.  That may sound weird to some, but those that have lived with a person in med school can attest to the fact that their stuff takes up all of the table space. 

    Lately, I’ve been digging through and re-reading things that I haven’t read in a while, even though there are things that I haven’t even read yet.  Just last night I re-read The Authority, because of some reason I was thinking of the Midnighter, and today has been "Young Avengers Day" as I’ve been working my way through my 2 HCs.  Who knows what’s next, but I do know this:  Young Avengers is one of the top 10 greatest books ever.   So, so good.

  6. Great job Paul! I love the articel and the pics. Are they of your place or your LCS? I am going to have to check out those Mighty Muggs. by the way your link dones’t work. 

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @superfriend82 – That’s my shelf at home.  Sorry for the sepia tone.  My lighting sucks. 

  8. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Tork – Those are all Mighty Muggs from Hasbro.  Another new collection.

    Doom is here

    Might want to shop around.  They go for anywhere from 9 to 25 bucks.  Marvel, Star Wars, and now Indiana Jones.  

  9. Eloquent as always, my friend. Nice piece. Nice stack o’ books. My own stack has overwhelmed by bookshelf. There are two three foot tall stacks NEXT to my bookshelf. There are also books stuffed into the slim horizontal space between the tops of rows of books and the bottom of the next shelf. Now, some are prose books, some are graphic novels. Some are read, some are not. But I’ve always found overstuffed bookshelves to be something slightly wondrous. I think it goes back to a very influential writing teacher I had in college. Her home was stuffed with books. Books were stacked everywhere — too many to read, but all lovingly piled into corners and crevices – an infestation of literature. And they were all well-read —  notes scribbled in margins, passages underlined. I wanted to be that well-versed. I wanted my house to look like someone had forgotten to turn off the literature faucet before leaving on a vacation to the Bahamas. And now, alas, I’m nearly there.

    Did I say I’m really enjoying Stack Week? To say I relate is an understatement. 😀 

  10. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @the vile daccampo – Spending a lot of time at the college professor’s house, eh Dave?  Wink nudge wink nudge.  Haha.

    I just got a new bookcase (and I might get a second to sit next to it for a big wall o books).  Even in the few hours it’s been up I’ve already started the vertical stack on top of the horizontal row of books on each shelf. Wonderous indeed!

    You know that bit in the Fellowship of the Ring movie where Gandalf is looking for information on the Ring in that library?  You can barely see the shelves; it’s just a wall of books?  I want that.  

  11. "There was time…time enough at last."  Great episode, I can thank Dark Horse for those compact omnibi of Aliens, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator, BVS, and now Indiana Jones.  I’ve bought each one since they’ve come out and havn’t read a one, but I’m compelled to buy them each time.  They must be powdered with some magic dust or be as "persuasive" as the one ring because they always get me.  I’ll eventually get to them, right?

  12. Haha. A reference to the "To Serve Man" cookbook.

    This Paul Montgomery must be a professional.

  13. Is anyone else looking at the picture, squinting and such to see what is on the shelf? Cause I am. 

     Are those Star Wars comics that Iron Man is standing in front of?

  14. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @jurassicalien – Haha, sorry, I was focusing on the action figures, so the comics are blurry. 

    Iron Man is standing in front of my Y: The Last Man trades.  There is a volume of Star War: Legacy I found in the 50% off bins in there though.  Bottom shelf with the other Dark Horse stuff.  

  15. @Jurassicalien – Iron Man is in front of Y: THE LAST MAN, I believe.

  16. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Can I buy some studio lights with funds from the petty cash drawer in the office?  I think the readers deserve better quality photos.

    😀

     Also, I lost my key card to get into the office.  Can I get a new one with a lanyard?  

    Someone should probably feed the goldfish too.  

  17. Curse! Should have known, but that’s part of the fun…being wrong…

  18. Sheesh…you’ve got me lusting after that Marvel Romance book of all things….Damn you, Paul!

    John…!

    Marsha…!

    John…?

    Marsha…?

    John!

    Marsha! 

    This episode of iFanboy brought to you by The Young and the Restless…and Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss! I think there is a whole new niche about to explode… Romance is going to be the new Western or War Comix….

    Great article!!!