I’d guess we’ve all got holes in our reading. Which I’m likely saying just to make myself feel better, yeah. Anyway, Faulkner, say. I’ve read maybe five of his novels? But I don’t feel bad about that either, because I was pretty bored about two novels in. And Hemingway, man. Only made it through two there, and wish I could scrub those out. And, probably only thinking this because I was at Powell’s last week. Both sad I hadn’t read a lot of the stuff and happy too, because I still had it to read. The best invention, I think, it’s going to be one that can burrow into our memories, erase certain books, just so we can read them again. I mean, to read Catch-22 for the first time again. Or The Crying of Lot 49. The Virgin Suicides. Love Medicine. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Deliverance. Ubik. It. I’d pay for that, yeah.
However, now, being both a novelist and a professor of English, still, there’s some holes in my reading that are pretty inexcusable, I think. Embarassing. Which is kind of stupid, too, right? To be embarrassed by not having read a book yet? I don’t know. I’ve read a lot and a lot and some more, but somehow, these are what I’ve missed, what I keep thinking about:
Mao II. DeLillo. Even though I’ve read so many excerpts from it, and know it was from back when DeLillo was writing the kind of (his) stuff I like to read. Pre-Underworld, I mean. This book, though — and it might just be the cover — no matter how much I carry it around, I always end up reading some nothing-magazine instead.
The Good Soldier. Ford Maddox Ford. Really, I’ve read nothing at all by the guy. But I know I love that name; it’s why I bought the book forever-ago, pretty sure. Everybody says this book’s pretty hot, though. As for why I’ve been ducking it: I’m afraid it might be something like A Farewell to Arms. And just the chance of that kind of slog, it’s enough to get me looking onto another shelf.
Orlando. Woolf. Yep. Really, I think I’ve only read one other Woolf novel, To the Lighthouse. And I absolutely love that book. It’s one of the magic ones, one of the ones that show us how far words can take a reader. However, I felt very similary about Calvino’s If On A Winter Night A Traveler . . ., and have yet to read any more of his stuff either. Same reason: I liked one so much, I can’t imagine the others wouldn’t be a disappointment. (but: I did try her The Waves, I think it was, and found it ridiculous, more an exercise than a story, so backed out of it fast-like).
A River Runs Through It. Norman Maclean. Not that I have the patience for fishing, not enough to romanticize it anyway — it’s just getting meat, right? — but still, a lot of people I trust have pretty much had their lives changed by this little book. Which is maybe why I’ve been ducking it: I don’t want to get wrapped up in some lifelong love affair with fishing, really. But I’m very susceptible to getting infected by texts, too. So, though I’ve got a few copies of this one, even, still: not yet.
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. Robert Coover, yep. He who wrote what’s a lot of the time my favorite novel ever, Ghost Town. Anyway, I duck this one for the same reason as the Maclean: I hate baseball. Or, not even that. I just don’t think it counts. And I have suspicions that some of the stuff going on in this book, it’d maybe be good if I cared about the sport — the book might get to me then. However. Chabon’s Summerland? I didn’t think it was possible, but after that, I think I half-got the fascination for a moment. Such a magic book. And Coover’s likely is too. I just wish it didn’t have to have ‘baseball’ in the title.
Ada. Nabakov. Just because it’s so thick. But yeah, that didn’t stop me from devouring the last Pynchon, or inhaling Infinite Jest, the long version of The Stand, or from losing myself in who knows how many fantasy series. I do have a better excuse for this one, though: it’s Nabokov. And there’s only so much of it out there. The schedule I’m on, I’m trying to read one of his every other year or so, just so they’ll last. Probably about halfway through now. Anyway, him and Vonnegut, whom I accidentally did burn all the way through, way too fast, they’re writers we’re not getting any more of, I don’t think. Got to make them last.
Son of the Endless Night. John Farris. It’s so stupid that I call myself a fan of horror and haven’t read this yet. Or, really, any Farris. Especially when I’ve read so much else off that same shelf. Not at all sure why or even how I’ve been dodging him. Think it’s something to do with the fear or there being even less room in that sky, I suppose. But soon, soon. Maybe. Been carrying Son around for about a year now.
The Art of Fiction. John Gardner. How I ever got anything published without burning through this, I have no idea. Everything I’ve read from him about fiction I’ve agreed with anyway (though I tried not to), wanted to put on a bumper sticker. And I like what of his fiction I’ve hit too. Who knows. I also haven’t read Flannery O’Connor’s book on writing fiction — and does Waugh have one as well? — but I agree with very little they’ve said, so don’t feel so bad there. But Gardner. Maybe I need to. Could be all the secrets are in there, I mean.
The Bible. Yep. I think I know kind of the cheat-sheet version, and have read so much stuff on its textual history, just everything all around it, but still, this book that’s at the center of Western Culture, this book that’s changed the world, and continues to, I’ve never sat down, given it a week or two, seen how the books rub against each other, how threads are maintained, any of that. I did read (and love) Lamb, if that counts. But it probably doesn’t.
Carrie. King. When I’ve just about everything else from him I’m pretty sure, except that new collection on the shelves now (and Gerald’s Game — no, that and Rose Madder, I missed both of those somehow). But, I mean, Carrie, that’s where it all starts. That’s the book which kickstarted the career of the guy who’s had more influence on fiction than anybody else in the last fifty years. Which is a big statement, yeah. But, most of the writers I know, they were all like me in the eighties: staying up late, reading King. Thinking that maybe they could do this. Sure, I’ll agree that Rowling brought a whole generation of readers to the table (I’d argue Palahiuk did too, before her), but King, first, he kind of single-handedly allowed the horror boom of the eighties to happen, but, too, there’s so many of us now who wouldn’t be writers at all without him. And that I’ve never read Carrie, or that — and this is possible — I’ve allowed my read of it to get overwritten by the movie, it’s unforgivable. And I call myself a fan.
However, yeah, I’ve got all these books. Multiple copies, even. So, my only excuse, whatever it is it’s not good enough. Too though, I do get so happy, just knowing that that feeling, that first-read feeling, of discovering something new and wonderful and perfect, that talks only to me I’m pretty sure, it’s not just out there waiting for me, it’s already on my shelves.
But, as for what’s next: I’ve got Train Wreck Girl cued up, might be sliding through that. And just a stack of comics. Just finished that Bigfoot autobiography, In Me Own Words. Kind of a Manic D day, yeah. However, just burned through the first couple of chapters of Bradley Sands’ It Came From Below the Belt, and it’s nothing but fun so far. Have a stack of Lincoln and Child stuff staring me down as well. They’ve never let me down yet.