Buying under the influence

When they talk about things you shouldn’t do drunk, the usual suspects are drive a car, operate heavy machinery or do brain surgery. And if they don’t mention that last one, they probably should.

Something else that can be a bit risky if done drunk is book-buying. I’ve been known to do it from time to time and tend to end up with one purchase I regret the next day.

The last time I did it was while I was down in Melbourne during Good Beer Week. I was at a beer festival and, deciding I’d had enough (perhaps even more than enough), I opted to leave early. On the walk back to the hotel I passed a book store and thought “Hey, I like books, I’ll pop in for a look”.

The first problem I discovered was that reading the back cover blurbs was a big tricky. I’m not far off needing to wear glasses all the time so reading without them can be difficult at times. Combine that with alcohol’s habit of making focusing really, really hard and reading those blurbs becomes a Herculean endeavour. I ended up having to move the books around in my field of vision until I found the sweet spot where my eyes worked enough to read.

Then of course, there’s the problem with comprehension. Yes, I can read the words but understanding them is a whole different kettle of fish. Hell, remembering the start of the blurb by the time you get to the end is hard enough on its own.

In the end I picked up three books. The first was an oral history of The Clash in the band’s own words. Turns out I already had this book at home; but that was in a coffee table format. If there’s ever a format for a book that makes it a pain in the arse to read it’s the coffee table. How the hell are you going to take one of those on the bus? So I picked up a paperback version that had all the words but less of the pictures. I was happy with that purchase – I read it a few days after I bought it.

I also bought The Unwinding by George Packer, even though I had this book at home at one time or another. I’d given it away unread but opted to buy it again because I was drunk, but also because this paperback version had a much better cover. And it seemed like an “important” book I really should read.

The third book, Rock Stars Stole My Life, well that one’s a total mystery. It’s written by some guy I’d never heard of, though who was some big music journalist in the UK. It’s one of those memoirs of a life as a rock fan sort of thing. For the most part, those things are terrible – they tend to be one long list of names dropped (“hey look at all the famous rock stars I know”).

So I’ve not read this one since I bought it back in May. And I probably never will. But maybe I should keep it as a reminder not to buy books while drunk.

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