Monday, March 19, 2007

3 am reading

This is the year I'm finally managing to beat my 30-plus-year addiction to Coke (although truth be told, it was a Pepsi addiction all the way through college) and caffeine. I drank less than three cans of Coke in January and switched to decaf coffee, then unsweetened hot tea. In February I fell off the wagon after I got sick, buying 12-packs (which I rationed out, one can a day) and eschewing all unsweetened hot drinks, but I've gotten myself back in hand since then, drinking only an occasional can of Coke at work, or while dining out.

Last week while I was migraining, though, I whined enough to convince L. I needed a Coke to help me through the nausea. He brought home a two-liter. It's hard for me to ration a two-liter, especially when I have to deal with the DMV, and I drank like old times, swigging from the time I got up in the morning until the time I went to bed.

And I can't do that anymore. For two nights I couldn't get to sleep, I couldn't stay asleep. I finally reached the point that is at the heart of why I find it so difficult to weed my collection of books or to stop buying them: what if I wake up at 3 am in the morning and need that particular title?

Of course the particular title I needed at that moment happened to be a library book, but how can that undermine my book-hoardiness when it was a book I checked out last spring from the university library. I couldn't very well have gotten into the library at 3 am to reclaim it, now could I?

The book was Muriel Spark's The Comforters, which Spark fans at Readerville have claimed as their favorite. (Did any Slave actually read this one last summer? I think a couple may have intended to but never followed through.) I knew nothing else about the book, but I knew the time had come for me to read it.

The oddness of the characters and the focus on Catholicism quickly reminded me of Flannery O'Connor; I took this as a sign that I ought not postpone reading her for several weeks as I'd been intending and I began rereading Wise Blood over the weekend. And encountering a character in the Spark who hears a typewriter and a voice narrating her thoughts and experiences was a delightful bit of synchronicity since I had Stranger Than Fiction on hand to watch as well.

I'm also rereading Emma. I hope I have time to finish it before I'll need to start Lady Susan for the Slaves discussion at the end of the month, but I may need to set it aside for Jonathan Raban's Surveillance, which is due at the public library on the 27th and cannot be renewed.


  1. Wow. How interesting to read about this Coke addiction. (You really don't want to forget that capitalization, do you?) My stomach is upset just thinking about drinking so much soda; if I drink one a day for three days, say while on vacation, my stomach rebels. Big-time. It's just interesting how we're all made so differently.

    But anyway, good luck with the continuing efforts to quit entirely because it really sounds awful, not being able to sleep. (Although you get a lot more reading done than I do. Maybe I should try No-Doz tablets?)

  2. I think I must have slowly increased the amount I was drinking over the years so that my body adjusted to it without any ill side effects (those happened if I stopped drinking it suddenly. Worst migraines of my life). And I've gone off Coke for a couple of weeks at a time many times. . . and most of those times I'd have to fight a feeling that there's no fizz to life without it. It's bad when you can't feel there's a meaning to life without soft drinks. And all the while it's leeching calcium from your bones and making you fat.

  3. Susan:

    Master and I are knee-deep in O'Connor these last two weeks.

    Remarkable. Remarkable to be there with a student as he meets her. Remarkable to re-read her.


  4. I haven't decided how many O'Connor stories we'll do this spring. I hope S. appreciates her the way your son does.

    Are you doing any other Southern short stories? I remember reading Welty, Capote and Faulkner in high school in addition to the O'Connor.

  5. Sorry about your migraines. I have a co-worker who gets migraines and says Coke is one of the few things that can keep them from getting bad if she administers the right "dose" at the right time. As for me, I gave up drinking soft drinks three years ago. I never drank them a lot, but oh, it was so hard. It wasn't until about a year ago that I stopped craving them.

  6. I have a long history with caffeine too. I'm hooked -- if I don't have my morning cup of coffee I get a headache. For the most part this is manageable, but it's a real pain when I have no time in the morning or when I'm backpacking and don't have easy access to caffeine. For this reason, I've tried quitting several times but always find myself back on it again.

  7. One night I got a call from my son in his first semester of college. He solemnly told me he thought he was coming down with something -- he hadn't been able to sleep and he was unusually jittery. After speaking with him a bit and eliminating the usual health triggers, the lightbulb dawned on me. "Have you been drinking a *lot* of soda?" I asked. He admitted to it and I smacked him (metaphorically) upside the head and suggested that excess caffeine was his problem and he needed to swear off the soda. It seemed an entirely novel concept to him - caffeine in soda! That despite his dad being a major Coca-Cola drinker....

  8. MargaretWV8:22 PM

    The corn section of The Omnivore's Dilemma (first part of the book)cured me of sodas for good. I even stopped drinking diet sodas -- I just couldn't support those HFCS-pushers any longer.

  9. He just read "A Rose for Emily" before heading out this afternoon and had some neat comparisons of the grotesquerie in that and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."

    I confess that he'll probably do only the oft-anthologized Welty (i.e., "Why I Live at the P.O."), but he plans to read Capote's In Cold Blood over the summer, so I don't think I'll require, say, Breakfast at Tiffany's (although, knowing him, he may squeeze it in, too, now that I've mentioned it).

    Today I told him that I keep thinking of more and more and more things we could read and discuss. "I need to rein it in!" I laughed. "You've already read so much more than I did in high school. Hell, in college."

    Even with all of that reading, though, there are some gaps. For example, he pushed for David Copperfield (our second Dickens) over Middlemarch. He pushed for more (and more and more) Shakespeare but hasn't read Austen. I'll be rereading DQ when he arrives at the Grossman edition this summer, but he's not interested in, say, East of Eden.

    Gaps happen, eh?

    Best regards.

    Postscript: I meant to add that I can empathize with your caffeine addiction. It is the one thing, though, that stands between me and a lifetime of migraines. I can't part with it.

    Life's too short to willingly accept pain.

  10. I meant "Good Country People" above (although, arguably, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" could be described as grotesque -- frightening, certainly).

  11. It's impossible not to have gaps; there's simply too much out there worthy of being read and studied.

    The Capote we read in high school was "My Side of the Matter,"--fun to read in conjunction with "Why I Live at the P.O."

    As for all my fellow caffeine past and present fiends: glad I'm not alone.

    Margaret: I was reading that part of the Pollan in January and I'm sure that helped keep me on the straight and narrow.

  12. Good for you, kicking the Coke habit. I am a diet Coke/Pepsi addict myself. It's terrible. And I've been up and awake at 2 or 3 every night -- though I do think part of it at least is hormone related.

    If you're going to reread, Emma and Wise Blood seem to be good choices.

  13. Count me in as a member of the club of Coke addicts who wish they could break the habit. It has gotten to the point that I have an open diet Coke around for at least half the day. About half the time I drink the caffene-free ones because my wife won't let the others in the house, but at work I can only get the regular diet Cokes. When I think about how much money I spend on these things every month it amazes me. I figure that I must spend about $100 a month on them...maybe we need to start a support group for ourselves and other hopeless addicts. :)

  14. I try and stay away from soda completely. If I start I can't stop!! That said I prefer Coke over Pepsi. And that said I prefer Mexican Coke (that sounds sort of bad--I am talking about coca-cola--the stuff you drink!!!LOL), becuase unlike us--who have to put that NASTY high fructose corn syrup crap in every food known to man, they use good old pure cane sugar. It tastes so much better than American Coke. I'm glad I am not the only one who fears weeding--the minute I get rid of it, I am going to want to read it again!


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.