It pained me to think of all those years when I simply devoured whatever fell into my hands, whatever struck my fancy at the local library or on my parents’ bookshelf: best sellers from the 1930s and 1940s, the names on the spines long forgotten; the comedic writers beloved by my father; and all those Agatha Christie and Stephen King novels, all that pulp. There had been good stuff, too, much of it by accident rather than design: Flannery O’Connor, Shakespeare, whose collected works I’d read in both Lamb précis and true form, the Brontës, Chekhov, and contemporary writers pulled from the “New Releases” shelf at the library, purely because I liked the titles or the covers. But when I thought about all the hours I’d spent lying on my bed or my parents’ couch or our lawn or in the backs of cars on family vacations, all those hours that could have allowed me the collected works of Dickens, into which I’d barely delved, or Trollope, or Dostoyevsky. Or Proust. The list went on and on, all that I hadn’t read, all that I didn’t know.
– Joanna Rakoff, My Salinger Year, p. 112.
This passage resonated with me, because I sometimes feel exactly the same, particularly when I’m confronted with all the great writers I haven’t read. Continue reading