The Great Book-Buying Fast, Day 38

I’m starting to feel the effects of this book-buying ban—unfortunately, not positive effects on my budget, but effects like withdrawals and other symptoms of addiction. My family and I recently purchased a home and with that purchase, apparently, comes numerous unforeseen and often obscene expenses. I’m as strapped as ever. I’m only thankful for the book-buying ban at this point because it’s one less line item in my budget with a glaring red number in its row. Aside from that and perhaps on a deeper level, I’m struggling against the real urge to support authors and causes I care about, to continue building my library, to read as my little heart fancies.

I had a free moment to myself at Costco yesterday (I know, I’m living the dream) and I allowed myself a brief browse at the book table. It was a mistake, clearly. Only just that morning, I had read a fascinating headline about a never-before-published 87-year-old work by Zora Neale Hurston, a brilliantly gifted author whose best-known book is a particular favorite of mine. What should appear on the table at Costco, but a neat stack of this gorgeous work of history and art, the day before its posted publication. I visibly clutched at my chest, audibly drew in breath—it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine—and then I walked away. This is the first time I was actually sad for leaving behind a potential purchase.

Here’s a little background for my (wholly justified) reaction. Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” was never published for what is perhaps one of the reasons Zora Neale Hurston was never given due recognition for her talent and power in storytelling. The thick and authentic dialect was just too much for publishers to get beyond. But, thanks to Hurston’s refusal to edit out the flavor of the language, there is preserved in her works a dynamic and essential part of her own culture. The story in Barracoonis based on interviews Hurston conducted with Cudjo Lewis, the man widely believed to be the last African man alive at the time who had been kidnapped from his home, shipped over to America, and forced into slavery. I really want to read this book.

It’s moments like these that challenge my resolve the most. Is it really worth it to stick so stubbornly to this fast? Am I doing more harm than good by holding on to my money? I honestly don’t know. I’m in a bit of a moral quandary, but the achiever in me is staying strong because I committed to this. I guess I never really thought about the potential consequences or loss I would feel in what is ultimately a selfish endeavor.

Here’s an excellent review of Barracoon at 4Columns.