Books acquired: “Preston Falls,” David Gates; “From Bill, With Love,” Bill McClellan; “The Fiddler on the Subway,” Gene Weingarten; “The Silent Invaders,” Robert Silverberg; “The Best of Henry Kuttner,” Henry Kuttner; “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch; “Marooned on Mars,” Lester del Rey.
Books read: “Forgotten Bookmarks,” Michael Popek; “The Complete Stories,” Flannery O’Connor.
Greetings, bookish ones! We’re halfway through 2016, a year that (among many other things) has seen me read 19 books, my slowest pace since I started these blog posts in January 2009 (a mini-essay that included the offhand promise, “If I remember, I’ll write one of these posts each month”).
In my defense, if one must defend one’s reading pace, a few of these books have been long, including one of this month’s. Too, though, I’ve taken fewer Metrolink trips, which would reliably provide time to read 50 or 100 pages, and my coffeehouse visits, rather than give me reading time, have given me laptop/wifi time.
So I’m on pace for a mere 38 books. That’s 38 more than most Americans are likely to read this year, but not up to my usual standards. I have a pretty good idea what else I’m likely to read this year, give or take, and while I might put on a burst of speed and get to 40, at this point 35 or 36 seems more likely.
Well, let’s get to what I did read. All of June, the last week or so of May and the first day of July was spent reading the 550-page “Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor. She’s the author of the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” read by many, including me, in school. Generations of students have quietly and humorously rendered the title as “A Hard Man is Good to Find.” But it’s a great story. In a college class, we read at least two of these 31 stories.
This book has haunted my shelves ever since, awaiting the day when I would read the whole thing. That day finally came — over a period of about six weeks. Actually, I intended only to reread those two stories and abandon the book, but then I read another, and another, and gave in, committing to the whole thing.
O’Connor, who died in 1964, was a Southern writer who wrote about the South in mid-century. Her stories can be funny and horrifying, sometimes at the same time, and most have a devastating impact. Some find her stories too cruel, her characters too idiotic, and it’s true too that her concerns, often race and class, as well as morality and duty, are repetitive. I ate these up. O’Connor should be as well known as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and she’s more consistent than either. Highly recommended.
“Forgotten Bookmarks” was compiled by a bookhound who photographs unusual items left in books acquired by his family’s used bookstore. He has an enjoyable blog. I expected to enjoy this book more than I did; the problem, I think, is that too many of the items are curiosities like letters left in 19th century books. There just wasn’t much fizz here.
That book was a gift from earlier this year, while O’Connor’s dates to my college days, probably 1985. There’s a sticker on the back from the University of Illinois campus bookstore, although I’m pretty sure I bought it at the campus used bookstore, Acres of Books, now long gone. Aside from my Shakespeare omnibus, from which I read a play now and then, “Stories” was the oldest unread book in my possession. My goal the past couple of years was to finish all my “Illinois” books by June 2016, 30 years after my move to California, and I almost made it. Onward to California books!
You’ll note I bought seven books in June, the result of visits to six bookstores, most of them while on vacation. I’ll post soon about the lone non-vacation store.
How was your June, readers, and how is your year shaping up at this halfway mark?
Next month: the end times (in a manner of speaking).