Drop Everything and Read!

on Tuesday, October 26, 2010
What on Earth was I thinking? Don Quixote? In October? I've always meant to read Cervantes's great tale of the knight errant, but holy crap it's massive! I set aside last year to read the big classics, the tomes, but I could only get through so many. So while Melville, Hugo and Musil got a guernsey, Cervantes didn't make the cut. I've found it difficult to rev myself up about big books since then. There are just so many smaller ones I'd rather tackle. Let's face it. What can you say in nine-hundred pages that can't be said more succinctly in three?

My recent trip to Toledo, and purchase of a metal Quixote statuette pushed me over the edge. I could hardly place the thing in my library without having read the book. I'd look like a schmuck. So I prepared myself for two weeks of committed reading (far removed from my usual literary promiscuity), and dived in. Glad to say I'm loving it. But by the time the gallant madman was charging his first windmill, I received a package with Nicole Krauss's latest novel inside. Plus Charles Yu's How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. And The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink. Then, just as Don Quixote attacked a flock of sheep (an hilarious scene, I know), I happened upon the new Paul Auster novel in my local bookstore, a month before I thought it was due to be published. It was sitting alongside the latest from Mister Pip author Lloyd Jones. Yes, it's October. The month of big releases. Which means now I don't know what I should do.

I have very little self-control and even less patience. There are some authors for whom I will drop whatever I am doing, even take days off work, to read their latest work the day it is released. J. M. Coetzee is the main one. Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy as well. Jose Saramago while he was still alive. And Paul Auster, though I have grown a little wary of his later output. There are also times when a particular book, whether I have read the author before or not, actually causes me to salivate. Right now, there is an ever-growing stack of such novels, including a couple by the authors I just mentioned, tilting perilously in my direction. I am at serious risk of physical harm from the imminent collapse of my bedside book tower. So do I drop Don Quixote halfway though? Do I do the unthinkable and put down a book without finishing it? Sure, I might intend to go back but we all know I won't. Such existential angst. I don't know if I can bear it. For now I'll persist, but I am beginning to think that turning a blind eye to the excitement I feel for the books released this month, the ones poking their tongues out at me from their colourful spines, would be like doffing my brass barber's bucket at a fair maiden in the field. Truly mad!


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