I am reading Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree which I mentioned before. It’s a collection of his columns from The Believer magazine and every column starts off with a list of books bought and a list of books read. The lists generally aren’t the same.
For the most part, he writes about books I’ve never heard of and even after hearing about them, most would not make it to my list. My list is extensive, trust me. I appreciate hearing about them in this book, thus my data field is expanded without me having to take action.
In one essay (Oct 04), Hornby talks about Gabriel Zaid’s book So Many Books (Jesus Christ it’s hard to find a link to a book that isn’t pure commerce, that’s what the Internet has reduced us to: lumps of meat that buy things.) Hornby sets forth Zaid’s basic question as “Why bother?” Zaid estimates it would take 15 yrs. to read a list of all the books ever published. And while a person like me would despair at this. I despair walking through Powell’s — just the fiction section — Hornby says, “I was actually rather heartened.”
Getting back to the books bought v. books read. I find I am always wanting to pick up huge collected story volumes such as the Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro books both sitting in my “to read” annex. (The main “to read” pile is by the bed. The annex is specific shelf in the bookcase.) I think I have flipped through both books a half dozen times but don’t think I’ve ever finished a story in either one.
Today, I read the NYT book reviews and saw the review on Carol Shields Collected Stories (593 pages!) and quickly jotted it down for my list. This in addition to the Paul Bowles collection and the Kate Chopin collection and the Mary McCarthy collection (actually essays) that I expect to add to the pile some day.
Because, yes, I completely intend to read them.