Archive | April, 2012

Once More from the Top…

2 Apr

OK, so the whole dishwashing thing hasn’t really fired my imagination the way I hoped it would. I still think it’s a fertile topic, and I’ll be returning to it. But I want to broaden my scope some. Mainly, I want to start blogging about a new project, the most ambitious reading project I’ve ever undertaken.

Liz and I have a bookshelf I particularly love. It fits in a corner of our den, stopping just a few inches short of the ceiling, like it was made for the spot. Actually, it was made by my grandfather years ago, and it was one of the few things I wanted to take from their house after my grandmother’s death. So it has sentimental value; what’s more, since it’s our novel shelf, it has most of my favorite books on it. But it has many, many more books than that. Often I’ve found myself contemplating all those novels, many undisputed classics, some obscure, some personal obsessions, some clunkers or guilty pleasures that we just haven’t parted with, and then a great number of someday-we’ll-get-around-tos of all stripes.

Well, I’m getting around to them. That’s the new project I want to blog about. I’m going to try to march through our novel shelf in order. Starting at the top, each of its seven shelves, left to right. They’re in vague alphabetical order. We tuck new additions in where we can. Make no mistake–this is a lot of books. (Maybe someday I’ll actually count them.) And I’m not a fast reader. I think reading even a shelf per year would be extremely ambitious. Each shelf includes at least a few big novels that will take me months to read, I imagine. Some of them I’ve already read, of course, and I’m not going to reread them, unless they’re school assignments so dimly remembered that I might as well have never cracked the cover.

So we’ll see how far we get. Plus, I’m not going to stop reading other stuff. Hilary Mantel and Bruce Wagner both have new novels coming out before the end of the year.

Last night I pulled the first novel–the top shelf, far left novel–down and dived in. The Information, by Martin Amis. More on that in my next post. For the rest of this post, I’m just going to bang out what else the top shelf holds for me:

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, The Blind Assassin (I started The Blind Assassin and was not into it, so this will be an early challenge.)

J. G. Ballard: The Impossible Man (Will I let myself off the hook when it comes to misshelved short-story collections? [Or memoirs? I’m looking at you, Speak, Memory.] Not sure about that yet.)

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

Louisa May Alcott: Little Women

James Baldwin: Another Country

Kirsten Bakis: Lives of the Monster Dogs

Paul Auster: Moon Palace, The New York Trilogy, The Invention of Solitude

Jane Austen: Emma (Again, I’m taking these as I get to them, even if they’re not with their sister novels.)

J. G. Ballard: Rushing to Paradise, Super-Cannes, Empire of the Sun, Cocaine Nights

Russell Banks: The Sweet Hereafter

Julian Barnes: The Sense of an Ending

Djuna Barnes: Nightwood

Julian Barnes: Flaubert’s Parrot, England, England, A History of the World in 10-1/2 Chapters

Samuel Beckett: Malloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (Liz has suggested that I reserve three mulligans for myself; this may be when I start using them.)

Saul Bellow: The Adventures of Augie March, Henderson, the Rain King

Roberto Bolaño: 2666

Look, I’ve quit drinking. I’ve got to occupy myself somehow. James Ellroy said something apropos about this somewhere in My Dark Places, I think it was. I’ll dig it up someday soon.