Memes always remind me of the scene in The Commitments when Jimmy interviews himself in the bathtub. All they essentially boil down to are fantasies of wanting to be interviewed, fantasies I'll admit to harboring myself. This meme is a bit more clever in origin: it's based on a passage from Calvino's fantastic If on a winter's night a traveler and stolen from Kate, via So Many Books.
Books you’ve been planning to read for ages
War and Peace. Elizabeth Bowen’s books. The second half of Tender Is The Night. More detective novels. The rest of the George R.R. Martin series. All of those books that were so fashionable to love in 2006, 2005, 2004, but which I never got around to, and which are now somehow less important.
Books you’ve been hunting for years without success
Any old book of Jānis Rainis’s poetry. They’re either too scarce, too expensive, or in German, which is completely unhelpful.
Books dealing with something you’re working on at the moment
I happen to be editing a translation of a book on physics at the moment, and Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr. Y was a great companion for reworking language on quantum physics and theorems.
Books you want to own so they’ll be handy just in case
Russian copies of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, as well as The Yellow Arrow and several other Pelevin books. I have at best a very basic grasp of the language, but I keep copies on hand in case I get a brain tumor that suddenly allows me to learn Russian at a staggering pace, like John Travolta's character in Phenomenon. For now, unfortunately, it’s just shelf eye candy.
Books you could put aside maybe to read this summer
Old Nancy Drew books. One of the few remaining Shirley Jackson books I have yet to read. The new Harry Potter. P.L. Travers. A nice autobiography of someone who knows her life was fun and fascinating, but doesn't make me feel that mine can't be as fun and fascinating as hers (precisely why I loved the Julia Child autobiography).
Books you need to go with other books on your shelves
The second and third volumes of the Latvian translation of Anna Karenina, to go with the first.
Books that fill you with a sudden, inexplicable curiosity, not easily justified
Better Homes and Gardens design and cookbooks from the sixties and seventies. I came back from a recent Ohio thrift shop trip with stacks of them – Fondue books, Barbecue books – the pictures of old meat, my goodness! The colorful tips of fondue forks, like the little pegs in Mastermind, were a source of great joy in my childhood, and I think that this is what I'm drawn to in these books. The sensation of rugburn comes flooding back as I turn the pages and remember the family parties, the familiar bare lighting of rec rooms in neighbors' basements, beechwood shelves stacked with board games and tennis balls, the air hockey table...
Books read long ago that it’s now time to re-read
Of Human Bondage, which was my favorite book in high school, and it’s been so long that I can’t remember why. I recently learned that it was the book that made my mother really begin to love reading as well.
Books that if you had more than one life you’d certainly read but unfortunately your days are numbered
How morbid. In Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, she notes that it’s been said that people reach middle age on the day they realize they’ll never read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I’m starting to waver on that one, but I think it would be ridiculous to resign myself to middle age so early.
This meme has a few questions in it that had me choking – I decided last night in a fit of decluttering (inspired by these pictures) that I need to get rid of all the unread books on my shelves that I have no chance of reading within the next five years, and the ones I've read that I'll never likely read again. The challenger of this decision is still rolling around in my head like a belligerent heavyweight, but he’s sure to go down in the third round, when I have time this weekend to take stock of all the superfluous Things I own. My life is filled with too many Things, and the weight of them is impressive. I even went so far as to begin composing a letter last night to all of my relatives, asking them kindly not to give me any more Things. I often think that if, on a whim, we decided to go live in, say, Hawaii, it would be impossible to pack a bag of Things, because there are just too many Things I'd feel bad about leaving behind. Books are the biggest culprit.
And the temptation is always there for more: a list of 2007’s most anticipated books is up at The Millions (via Bookdwarf). Many of those I can wait for in paperback (or use as incentive to get a library card), but I think I can make room on my shelves for one more Murakami...