Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading in Doha

Those of you who have been with Hack the Bone since the beginning know how much I love books. Around the time I started this blog, I went into graphic detail about my reading habits. After digesting that particular post, DKM made me see that I often paint too strong a mental picture. I deleted the post.

What you, dear reader, need to take away from that story of censorship, is that I live to read. I’ve always been this way. I was that girl in grade two, who started a Babysitter’s Club and demanded to be Kristy. At age eight, I refused to read Sweet Valley High, because it was too low brow. I was a pretentious kid. Now I’m older and embarrassingly enough, the hours I used to spend pouring over novels are gone. With a full-time job and a fiancĂ© to entertain, I can’t find any time for me (said in whiny, fat lady voice)!

My reading time is precious these days, and I can’t afford to sit down with any old book. One must be selective. If I can only read fiction for a few hours a week, I’m sure as hell not going to spend it with a Danielle Steele. Snob!

Since I moved to Doha, I’ve had trouble finding new books.

In Toronto, my favourite place is a used bookstore on Ossington called Frantic City. On initially entering the store, I was so intimidated by the mean-looking hipster girl scowling at me from behind the counter that I almost ran out. On my pathetic dash to leave, I spotted a spooge-stained well-loved copy of Naked Lunch and knew I was in the right place. I turned around, adjusted my headband and asked the clerk to recommend something inspired.
She went straight to a copy of John Fante’s The Road to Los Angeles and I fell in love.

Fante and I quickly became besties. He’s the perfect amount of twisted. More twisted.
Not that twisted, sister.

One scene in The Road to Los Angeles, describes the manic lead character, as he stumbles on a cache of live crabs. The kid is armed with a pellet gun and spends an afternoon killing off a bevy of crabs, one by one. The slaughter takes up an entire chapter. It is truly gruesome, uncomfortable and for some reason that I can’t explain, totally fucking hot.


The bookstores in Doha are…sparse. In a conservative, Muslim country, where a fraction of the residents speak English as a first language, it’s a gift to find any fiction whatsoever. Some of the stores stock a few classics (the Odyssey, Dickens, and selected Shakespeare) but my laborious years as an English major demanded I read these works long ago.

My tastes are too perverted sophisticated to be satisfied by what’s currently available. My book stores experiences are limited to the Virgin Megastore, where I can spend $75 on a paper back that would cost 10 bucks in Toronto OR a trip to the Arabic bookstore to scour the English shelf, hoping to find something other than Twilight.

Yes, Twilight. Again. I’m sorry to keep offending the Twi-hards but it’s only because this gaping hole in popular culture is fucking everywhere. Twilight and Akon-- Qatar’s favourite imports. It’s bad enough that my other favourite gossip columnist, Elaine Lui from Laineygossip writes about the Twilight stars every day. She’s based in Vancouver, where the Twilight movie sequel is currently filming, and has the inside scoop on all things Robert Pattinson.

I met Lainey a few times while working at CTV, so I figured it wouldn’t be inappropriate to e-mail her, as a personal favour, and beg her to stop writing about Twilight. She says Robert Pattinson risks becoming “that Twilight boy,” while I said that she was quickly becoming “that Twilight columnist.” Lainey fans: you know it’s true. She wrote back and basically told me she has no other choice but to cover this shit. The Twilight movement is so large, and she's so very close to it. She has to write. Poor woman. I’m happy to forward the e-mail to those of you who care (cough…Tamara) but I doubt many of you do. Since I’ve been in Qatar, I’ve read the books I brought over with me, plus In Cold Blood and a series of crime novels set in Zimbabwe, that came highly recommended by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I’m also reading Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare. It’s a linguistic wonder, but hardly a page turner. One can only deliberately pronounce the schwa sound so many times before your head explodes.

So here’s my plea to readers in Doha—especially residents with an extensive book collection. Have you read something magical of late? Would you be willing to share your favourite reads with me? I’ll trade you for um….the travel books I can steal from DKM’s parents. Fair deal? Whatever, just help a girl out.


  1. Reading this right now:

    Saw her writing for the first time in "Proof: Alcohol and American Life," a blog in the NYTimes.


  2. Hey, thanks.

    Will definitely check that out. Anyone who writes on Proof is okay with me (RIP Proof).

    Who said drunks aren't clever?
    Probably no one, but thanks all the same.

  3. I was genuinely unhappy when they shut down that blog. Bastards.


Ramble on...