It's been more than four years since I browbeat the readership, as it was then, into providing me with a long long reading list. And, once I got over the hurdle of Dosteovsky, working my way through that list has been one of the great joys of the late aughts and early teens. And behold! I have read and reported back on a whopping 45 books! Many of them quite thick!
Yet, here in the late going, cracks have appeared in the ediface. I have run into a series of books that I have simply not been interested in reading, and even my mania for project completion has begun to flag.
The signal text was probably Fast Food Nation, a perfectly respectable piece of journalism about the fast food industry and American agribusiness. I understand why this is seen as an important book. Yet, to me, it embodys a perfect storm of barriers to produce reading. First, it is about food, and except in the way of every animal, I do not find food interesting. Secondly, it is about fast food, which is not really part of my life. Thirdly, it is about a vast social problem that I can do nothing about. And fourthly, worstly, it is polemical. I hate polemic, especially when I agree with it.
Then there's Amusing Ourselves to Death, a dated treatment of television. I could literally not care less about television, except as a medium for the broadcast of bowl games. Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy turned out to be a book length itteration of a good magazine article I read a long time ago. The Way We Eat and Why Our Food Choices Matter is, once again, about food; I feel like I've done yeoman's duty on the topic of food ethics with Matthew Scully's Dominion (read in October 2008), and feel no need to linger in the preached-at choir.
In short, I've decided that I could -- well, take your pick: "choose what I want to read for myself, like a norm," or "break faith with my readers." Very liberating! It allowed me, for instance, to throw Harry Potters V, VI, and VII into the out-box, manfully sacrificing my curiosity as to who the next three Defense Against the Dark Arts professors will be as well as the yearly updates in Quiddich broom technology. I'll try to roll with it.
Running From Rabbit
The big surprise, though, has been Rabbit is Rich, the third installment of John Updike's biography of the unloveable Harry Angstrom. I thought that Rabbit, Run was a tremendous book, and gave the second book, Rabbit Redux, a glowing review earlier this year. Yet Rabbit is Rich has completely failed to engage me. I don't know why. Maybe these are not books to read in the autumn, when the relentless negativity of their world view tends to claw at one more than it might in spring. It's genuinely puzzling to me. I checked out the critical response, more or less hoping that there might be a general consensus that Rabbit is Rich was the dog of the series. But that's not the case. And so I sat, nearly halfway through the book, feeling no motivation to continue: no curiosity as to what happens next, and no desire to remain immersed in the fictional world. I passed the first climax, a spectacular, emotional event that made me roll my eyes, and stopped.
Maybe I'm just over Rabbit.
That leaves the following books on the Reading List, along with my intentions towards them, now that I've broken the seal on intentions:
Hansen, Motoring With Mohammed -- Judging from blurbs, this might be interesting. I'll give it a whirl.
McCall, Makes Me Want To Holler -- Judging from blurbs, this doesn't look very interesting. But I'll start it.
Donaldson, the first Thomas Covenant trilogy -- Oh sure. I'm curious about how it reads, 30 years on.
Davis, One River -- I don't know what this is.
Byatt, Possession -- I'm looking forward to this one.
Stegner, Angle of Repose -- I'm looking forward to this one, too.
Moore/Gibbons, Watchmen -- This is a comic book, I think? No reason not to read it.
Rawicz, The Long Walk -- A Mrs.5000 favorite, if I recall. What's good for the goose...
Levin, How the Universe Got its Spots -- Sounds like it has potentional.
Campbell & Campbell, The China Study -- It's about food. But I'll look at it, at least.
Tolstoy, War and Peace -- This one wasn't even on the original list; I smuggled it on because I want to read it.
LeGuin, Earthsea trilogy -- Definitely
Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country -- Sounds good.
Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas -- Sounds good.