Thursday, September 19, 2013
In seventh grade Mrs. G. stole a book from the Memphis public library. She didn't actively steal it, as in stealthily slip it into her backpack and hotfoot it out the door. No, Mrs. G. was Catholic. Catholic Catholic. It was 1978, and she was panicky about sinning.
Previously comfortable with the occasional white lie and blasphemy, eleven-year-old Mrs. G. now focused all her efforts on never, ever sinning and, therefore, never, ever sitting on a folding chair at a lame card table across from an ancient, moth-eaten Father Stritch to report her misdeeds while he looked directly at her base and unholy face. Not since discarding the Latin Mass had the Vatican hatched such an ill conceived, daffy plan. Sin has no business in the cold, hard light of day.
So, no, she didn't swipe the book— she just never returned it. She let her mother take the fall and pay the replacement fine (sin). Mrs. G. concealed the book under the winter sweaters on the top shelf of her closet, right next to a battered copy of Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones on loan from a friend. The book Mrs. G. stole was a copy of Sara Davidson's Loose Change, a nonfiction account of the lives of three Jewish girls, who met while living in a UC Berkeley sorority house, from the 1960's to the mid 1970's: Sara (Davidson), who becomes a successful journalist; Susie, who marries a student radical and grooves through the western counterculture scene; And Tasha, who moves to the Big Apple and becomes a sophisticated fixture in the art world. The book is chock-full of student protests, drug use, the civil rights and feminist movements, the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, communes, vaginal explorations and Joni Mitchell. Arousing stuff for a true-blue, quaking Jesus lover. Mrs. G. isn't entirely sure what it was about the book that lead her to a momentary life of crime, but the wholesale disregard for authority and wanton sex didn't hurt. It was in this book that Mrs. G. learned the word patriarchy and, Mother Mary and St. Bernadette, did she use it a lot.
To her mother: Don't you know those false eyelashes and platform shoes are tools of the patriarchy!
To her stepfather: I have better things to do than wash your patriarchal dishes!
Mrs. G. still has her stolen copy of Loose Change. It's currently on the family room bookshelf right next to (oh how things change) Martha Stewart's Cookies...The Very Best Treats to Bake. Mrs. G. is looking at the stolen book right this very moment. It reminds her of criminal behavior and damnation. It makes her nostalgic and wistful for outlaws, the Dewey Decimal System and books you just have to own.
It doesn't make her nostalgic and wistful for the patriarchy because that shit still exists, in spades.
Reader, what was the most stimulating, devilish book you hid on the top shelf of your closet?