Happy New Year!
You may recall that last New Year’s, I decided to begin an ambitious book, “Moby-Dick,” a novel that turned out to well repay the hours (and days, and weeks) I devoted to it.
That gave me the idea of starting one long, classic book each Jan. 1, something to lose myself in during the winter months and to constitute a sort of intellectual self-improvement program. What is Jan. 1 for if not for outsized goals?
I was batting around the titles of various complex novels on my shelves, including “Don Quixote” (bought from a sale table at B&N circa 2001, never read) and “Crime and Punishment” (bought after seeing “Match Point,” ditto), before deciding to read a shorter classic book: Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd and Other Stories.”
I’d meant to read this last spring, sometime after finishing “Moby,” but got sidetracked. (The ambition of January gives way to the pragmatism of May.) Besides, given the alarming number of unread books piling up, this year my hope is to read more, but shorter, books, to fool myself into thinking I’m making more progress.
In a way, this choice is cheating, because I’ve spent the past month reading “…And Other Stories” — “Bartleby,” “The Piazza,” etc., including the short novel “Benito Cereno” — and 285 pages later, all that’s left is “Billy Budd,” which is about 95 pages. I’ll report back when I’m done. Since Melville isn’t a quick read, give me two or three weeks.
Anyone want to offer encouragement, or share their own New Year’s goal?