Monday, September 17, 2007

A Reading Plan

On Friday, I bought one book and I ordered another one that's relatively rare. The one I bought is Edmund and Rosemary Go to Hell by Bruce Eric Kaplan. Kaplan is an artist responsible for my all-time favorite New Yorker cartoon, which I can't find in a format that reproduces largely enough on the blog. It shows a man and woman peering out at an awe-inspiring scene of nature, perhaps a large canyon, and the man says, "It makes me realize how small you are."

The book is a brief, illustrated one that follows the titular couple as Edmund realizes that they are not, in fact, living in Brooklyn, but in Hell. The illustrations are simple and blocky, and the story gets most of its laughs from good aphoristic writing. For instance: "Pets are so interesting, even though they never really do anything, which is the exact opposite of people."

The other book is This Was Racing by Joe Palmer, a collection of work by a renowned old horse racing writer.

I only tell you this because I'm going on a brief book-buying sabbatical, and even that's not a very good reason to tell you.

I've long known that I buy books faster than I can read them, and this method isn't without purpose. First, I intend to read all of them. Secondly, it's aesthetically pleasing to me to have many books, which are some of the only objects I really care about in the world. Thirdly, and most importantly, since I intend to read them all, the buying of them provides me with the illusion that I will have the amount of time I need to read them, so that the optimum number of books to buy would be an infinite one, thus making me feel something like immortal. Of course, even with the tens of thousands of books published each year, there aren't nearly enough good ones to stretch my need for reading hours to infinity. Maybe to 3075 or so.

In any case, even though I've been going through books very regularly these days, I do think it's wise to occasionally put a dent in the "to do" pile before adding to it. So, I've lined up 10 books that I plan to read before buying another. They are:

Angels by Denis Johnson
Discovering Modernism by Louis Menand
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
World's Fair by E.L. Doctorow
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

You may notice none of these books is particularly long. This is because it's ambitious enough for me to try something like this. No need to get crazy about it.

There's a caveat attached to this plan, too. I'm going to Ithaca next weekend for the first time in several years, and if the terrific used-books store I remember on the outskirts of town is still there, I'll have to be allowed to spend a reasonable amount on additions to my library, since I don't make it back there often. It's only reasonable. Or as reasonable as my addiction allows.


Anonymous JPW said...

Ha -- I remember that Kaplan cartoon in the NYer.... am almost certain I clipped it and have it somewhere. Hilarious. You know, the NYer has produced and marketed several collections of its cartoons by "theme" over the years. (I have purchased "The NYer Book of Kids Cartoons" for several parent-friends; it happens to include a brilliantly funny foreward by cartoonist Roz Chast). BUT I don't think there is a collection of "love/marriage" cartoons. Weird, no? Is it because there are just so damned many classics that culling them would prove impossible? :-)

10:54 PM  

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