Thursday 15 May 2008

What shall we read next, hmmm?

Here at Dreamqueen Manor, there are a lot of books I haven't read yet - truly, a veritable shitload. I've been collecting books in advance of the nuclear winter for a long time now, and it's generally been true that I buy and receive books as gifts almost infinitely more quickly than I'm able to read them (and I have mad-ish reading skills).

There's something incredibly comfortable and reassuring about having such a large buffer between me and the bleak hell of having literally nothing to read. There's also something inherently satisfying about browsing in a well-loved bookstore, but rare is the day that I walk into a bookstore and walk out again without having purchased anything. I'm weak, perhaps even addicted, but I revel in this particular compulsion - and really, surrounding oneself with books is not the most harmful way to wallow in the need for instant gratification.

Given the embarrassment of bookly riches in my "collection", it's a strange and sometimes difficult process for me to choose what to read next. Sometimes I get suggestions from my dear hubby when I'm looking for a particular kind of book (especially a good yarn) and/or am completely unable to make the decision myself. On the other hand, sometimes I NEED to read something in particular and so everything else in the chaos theory-inspired queue gets pushed back (one thinks of David Mitchell, and yes, I'm counting the days until his new novel is released while also obsessively rationing his second novel, number9dream, to extend the Mitchell-esque joy in my life).

But most times, this is how it goes: I'm reading a book and as I near the end I begin thinking about what I'll read when it's done. I think about what won't be too similar, either in tone, content, or style and make a mental shortlist (a shortlist as meaningful as a Booker shortlist, i.e., not at all - though I was pleased to see the judges had enough sense left in them to cut Life of Pi from the short list for the "Best Booker Ever, Like, Wow!" prize). When I finish my current book, I go check out the books on the shortlist for feel, etc and then generally disregard them all and choose something else entirely via a process I don't understand. I know this will happen and yet I still must go through the short-list process in my head.

One wonders what kind of psychological illness this portends. Or what it'll cause - because, I must confess, I've been pushing Henry James' The Ambassadors to the back of the list for literally the past 8 years. I feel like tearing my hair when I think about that book but it never ever feels like "the right time" to read it (no, I don't know what "the right time" means).

I think this calls for some kind of grant from either the Government or the Royal Society (if there's still a Royal Society somewhere distributing money to "independent scholars"). I'm still working through the grant money allocated to my theory of "Cha-hos" but I think I can spare the time for this fascinating new project.

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