Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Great Unread

I've started reading Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon" again, and that's seriously about the tenth time I've written or said that particular phrase in the past few years. I'm optimistic that this time I'll get through, though, since my schedule's rather light these days.

A few days ago, I picked up "The Flanders Panel" by Arturo Perez-Reverte, another one that I've tried to read multiple times. I got about 60 pages in before admitting to myself that I really wasn't enjoying it at all, and cast it aside. I did so with a little sorrow -- I honestly have intended to read "The Flanders Panel" since I got it ten years or so ago, but I never will. The poorly-drawn characters overshadow the appeal of a historical mystery. It's time that it goes to the used bookstore.

In a spurt of settling accounts, I went on to acknowledge that there's a few other books that have had a lengthy stay on my shelves and will (despite my best intentions) likely never be read.

* "Oswald's Tale" by Norman Mailer. I read the first few pages once and said "gee, I read 'Libra,' why would I read this?"

* "Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton" by J.P. Donleavy. There's a decent chance I'd like it, but it's taken me ten years to get halfway through Donleavy's "The Ginger Man," so this is pretty unlikely.

* "The Book of Kings" by James Thackara. In the mid-1990s, there was a pretty fascinating New Yorker article on Thackara's struggle to get this published, and his uncompromising attitude toward editors. The article said it could be the "War and Peace" for World War II or could be crap. I read a little bit a while back and I lean toward the latter.

* "An Age of Mediocrity" by C.L. Sulzberger. Years ago, I read "A Long Row of Candles," the first volume of Sulzberger's memoirs, and loved it -- so much that I tracked down the long-out-of-print second and third volumes. More than a decade later, I still have barely cracked volume two, "Last of the Giants" (which looks to be a lengthy love letter to de Gaulle). With that clocking in around a thousand pages, the likelihood of me getting to volume three is limited.

* "A Son of the Circus" by John Irving and "About a Boy" by Nick Hornby. Two authors that I've liked in the past but feel no drive to read now.

There you are: my shelf of shame.

* * *

One I have read, now:

#13 -- "Europeans" by Jane Kramer

Kramer has written dispatches from Yurp for the New Yorker for years now (I think she still does, though it occurs to me that I haven't seen her byline in a while). This is a collection of some of her pieces from the '70s and '80s. They're all pretty good, though some are a bit dated post-Cold War. Kramer's thoughtful and observant throughout, and while (of course) there wasn't enough Eastern Europe for my taste, it's still a good collection.

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