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Friday, April 29, 2011

Reader's Block

Confessions of a book collector:


You know the dream - that nightmare worse than walking into the office naked. You’re back in school. The night before finals.  You haven’t been in class; haven’t taken notes, haven’t touched a single page of the assigned reading. You wake up and realize: you’ve turned the dream into reality ... in books you've accumulated over the years. Mountains of books. Impossible to scale.   

Books.  Piled up on your desk. Lying dormant on your nightstand. Books lined up like sentinels on shelves and in bookcases in every room of the house. Books! Stashed in the pantry. Books in the basement, books in boxes you've been meaning to give away.  

Books. In numbers impossible to process and read.  Books collected as aspirational purchases. Books bought because you treasure them like long-lost friends, found as you poked through dusty shelves in used book shops.  Books others encouraged you to read, books recommended by your doctor, books that you've read about, books as-sure-as-life-and-breath you know you'll never, ever read.

What I'm Not Reading: A Random List

Not reading Ulysses. Ever again. Having abandoned the book somewhere in Nighttown at least three times over the (many) years, I am resolved to leave “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan” in a lather standing on the stairhead of page one, and skip -yes skip joyfully - to the final yes in Molly’s soliloquy. So there. And so much for my rare first edition, 8th printing, (Shakespeare & Company, 1926 - now that was a fine find!)


In a similar vein, I am not reading the last 400 pages of Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon. The first 685 were quite enough, thank you.

I am not reading David Foster Wallace - neither the first 1078 pages of Infinite Jest (though I’d like to very much) nor the last 547 pages of The Pale King,  his “new unfinished novel,” that now sits on my desk begging me to leave it . . .unfinished.  


I am not reading anything currently on the New York Times Best Seller List. This includes Bossypants (nice title, Tina Fey).

I am not reading the prolific, ever-pop and polished Stephen King,  even though I admit to purchasing Under the Dome, the deluxe edition. With collector cards!  Waiting for 11/22/63 to be published in November.  And will I purchase the new e-book edition of Full Dark, No Stars to be released in May? Probably, yes.

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Oh, no, I am not reading the perennial book group selection, Wolf Hall, in spite of my delight at finding a mint copy for $4 at a used book sale.

 I am not reading The Help, though everybody has.

I am not reading How to Cook Everythingthough I refer to Mark Bittman often. 

I am not reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoe-- having lost my way in the first summer.  

I’m not reading 1001 Books You must Read Before You Die -still in its shrink wrap.


Noting that "The only paradise is a paradise lost," (Marcel Proust)
am not reading and afraid I will die without reading The Grapes of WrathAdventures of Huckleberry FinnLolita, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Remembrance of Things Past,  War and Peace, and Tristram Shandy,among others on the list of ALL TIME Top 100 Novels.


What's the difference between "collecting" books and hoarding?  First editions in Brodart book jackets.    



Bookwise and pound-foolish, on my current list of must-reads this summer, I am not reading:
  • The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, still on my nightstand. "In the beginning there were the howlers."
  • Matterhorn, in ebook format, still untouched on my Nook
  • Tree of Smoke, a must-read leftover from last, last summer
  • Beatrice and Virgil, another Yann Martel animal tale

And no, I am not reading your blog at this moment, though I promise I will...



Additionally no, I am not reading (but  highly recommended) that you read:
  • The Artist’s Way, Chapter Four
  • All fine print on pesticides purchased for your Secret Garden
  • Nutrition labels on favorite snack foods
  • Operating instructions for new power tools and digital equipment



Happy reading (or not), and thanks for stopping by.

Photos: V Henoch
(Book Jackets: Amazon) 

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