by Kevin Moffett
There was a time when I fought against an impatience with reading, concealing, with partisanship, the fissures in my education. I confused difficulty with duplicity, and that which didn’t come easily, I often scorned. Then, in my last year of college in Gainesville, Florida, I was given secondhand a list of eighty-one books, the recommendations of Donald Barthelme to his students. Barthelme’s only guidance, passed on by Padgett Powell, one of Barthelme’s former students at the University of Houston and my teacher at the time,was to attack the books “in no particular order, just read them,” which is exactly what I, in my confident illiteracy, resolved to do.
But first I had to find the books, a search that began at Gainesville’s Friends of the Library warehouse book sale. Early morning, the warehouse parking lot was filled with about fifty men, women, and children waiting for the doors to open. At the front of the line were the all-nighters, hard-core sci-fi fans, amateur Civil War historians, and chasers of obscurities, rumored to have been there since before midnight. Some had brought with them hibachis and coolers and battery-powered radios, giving the parking lot the feel of a Gator football pre-game with less angry hope.