A happy marriage of circumstances has allowed me to post this week, for the first time in what feels like an age. While I may have neglected my blog in no small measure, the same cannot be said for its raison d’être – the actual reading and passion for books. I apologize for not sharing more of my bibliographic meanderings in the last few months. To say I have been busy is an understatement. The truth is, posting also came to feel less like a pleasure and more a duty at the time I stopped. I never intended to actually drop the pursuit, however, so here I am.
Where to begin?
I long ago gave up the hope that I could finish four books a week under the present circumstances. The average has been a steady two, and I have to accept that as good enough, even if I am (not so secretly) disappointed about it. Next year that aspiration will be downright impossible. My new scheme, starting in January, involves getting through a list of self-prescribed classics. Not an original pursuit, I must admit, but one that has been brewing for some time. There are just so many books that are referred to repeatedly that I haven’t read. Titles I deem beyond basic, like The Bible, or The Illiad, or even Don Quixote and Madame Bovary. To me, it is unacceptable to consider myself ‘educated’ and not have read these. With small exceptions, they are bricks, too.
My father thinks that I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew. Maybe he’s right, but I’m so excited by the enterprise that I’ll not lower my aspiration of fifty. The list isn’t comprehensive, in that I’ve read many classics already, and have left many more out. That said, I’ll feel much better after this set and, one hopes, more enlightened. Perhaps a second list of equal number will follow for future years. I’m giddy even thinking about it. I want to own every book on that list. Happily, I have more than half already, given my accumulation of volumes over the years. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll read them chronologically, or pick one from each era and then keep restarting. We’ll see.
I believe there is a canon, whether PC dictates otherwise or not. I refuse to concede to the postmodern possibility that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ book, or that that designation is completely subjective. Some books are universal and timeless, and others not. The edges of such a definition may be frayed, but they are still there.
Before I began working in the library, all I ever read were classics and history books. That exclusivity had to end, as it became obvious very quickly that such limited knowledge of contemporary books would inhibit my ability to serve patrons well in a public library. The old strings have been pulling in the last year, though, and the tendency has resurfaced. Without question I’ll still have to read some current books, if only to balance the proverbial and literal weight of the classics, and to stay on top of things literary. Mmm… Can’t wait.