I suffer from multibibliophrenia, an often debilitating condition caused by reading several books at one time. I can’t help being seduced by attractive cover art or rave review blurbs even though I know I’ll be cheating on the book I’ve already opened and committed myself to.
Guilty pleasure is pleasure nonetheless, however, and most recently I have been engaged in serial liaisons with Raul Hendrickson’s “Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He loved in Life, and Lost,” “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter, “All for a Few Perfect Waves” by David Rensin, and last, but far from least, “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking.
The beauty of multibibliophrenia is, for wont of a better description, cross-pollination. For instance, “All for a Few Perfect Waves” is a biography about Miki Dora, the black knight of Malibu, nicknamed Da Cat, a graceful wave rider and surfing anti-hero who railed against the commercialization of surfing, and who was not above a little cat burglary and credit card fraud to fund his world travels.
“A Brief History of Time” is Stephen Hawking’s heroic attempt to bring the latest in pure physics within reach of the 99.9 percent of the rest of us challenged by long division. He gives us Aristotle’s view of the universe, then Galileo’s, and Isaac Newton’s laws, and then Albert Einstein — and that’s when it got interesting because Albert figured out that the speed of light was the only constant, which meant that space and time were not.
He explains the dimension of space-time, how it’s curved, and how the inner workings of the sub-atomic universe — which hold the secrets to our place in outer space — sometimes act as particles, other times like waves. Waves. I knew it, and so did Miki Dora.
I’m sure Ernest Hemingway suspected as much as he piloted his boat Pilar out into the blue waves of the Gulf Stream from Key West, Bimini, and Havana with friends including Archibald MacLeish, John and Katy Dos Passos, Bror Blixen, and Isak Dinesen. Hemingway was a fisherman, one of the first big-game fisherman to hunt the giant bluefin tuna that migrated close to shore off the coast of Bimini, and massive marlin off Cuba. Hendrickson tells of Hemingway’s love for Pilar, of the sea, of living, which he squeezed the life (including his own) out of. A beautiful ruin.
Jess Walter’s “Beautiful Ruins” is set on the Mediterranean coast of Italy in a tiny town inhabited by fishermen and the Adequate View Hotel, whose proprietor gets caught up in a love affair between a beautiful actress and Richard Burton (Eddy Fisher had flown to Rome in hopes of winning his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, back from Burton) during the filming of “Cleopatra.” Equally tragic and comic, the plot turns around a handful of fascinating characters with the author skewering Hollywood in the process.
Speaking of which, I saw “Wolf of Wall Street” Monday night. It’s one of the most bloviated, gratuitous, unedited, pandering, derivative pieces of junk to come out of Tinsel Town in some time — a waste of Leonardo DiCaprio’s great talent. By contrast, and also playing at the East Hampton Cinema this week, “American Hustle” is the real deal. Sorry, just had to get that out. Guess winter’s got me multicinemaphrenic too.
It’s cold. We can’t go out on the water like Hemingway on Pilar or Da Cat on his surfboard. We must turn inward and travel through book-wormholes in Hawking’s space-time continuum to 1930s Havana, 1960s southern California, and the Mediterranean.
And Hawking writes about how Einstein’s theories prove that time passes more slowly the farther you get from Earth’s mass. The higher you are, the younger you are, relative to your age if you stayed grounded. But I think that’s only legal in Colorado.