“Avid” is an adjective I would use to answer my own question. However, “unfocused” is another.
I am always feeling that I have not read enough books. Recently, I vowed that this year I would teach myself more about the novel as an art form by reading some of the books that represent Big Gaping Holes in my Literary Education. They are,
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
I have no idea whether I will be able to get through them all this year.
Jane Eyre I was supposed to have read in high school. I skimmed it, and remember little of it to this day other than Rochester’s wife being in the attic. Oh, and George C. Scott was miscast in the movie version we saw in class, a movie I slept through as I was tired from working nights at a hot dog stand.
The one I’m least enthused about tackling is the Pynchon. I read The Crying of Lot 49 and was unimpressed by it. Also, I have been turned off to Pynchon by his cult-like devoted fans. For them, reading Pynchon is some sort of workout and puzzle-challenge. So I’m going to read Gravity’s Rainbow without consulting any of the many web sites maintained by the fanatically devoted. I was all set to read it a few years ago and then Against the Day appeared and the Internet was filled with the orgiastic panegyrics to every piece of Pynchon prose, and so I was turned off again.
I attempted to read Infinite Jest shortly after it came out. I was bored 60-80 pages into it by all the, what seemed to me at the time, neurotic yammering about how he swore he was not ever going to smoke pot again and this was, he swore to himself, the last bag of pot he would by from the last dealer he would contact, a dealer who was given instructions to never sell to him again blah, blah, blah. I have the sneaking suspicion I was wrong. So I’m going to give it another go, now that I am an older, more mature, and patient reader.
Portrait of the Artist has been sitting on my bookshelf for nearly two decades. It’s in a volume that includes Joyce’s Dubliners and Chamber Music. I have read Dubliners and some of the poems in Chamber Music. Joyce was a so-so poet. Though the bastard had a first-rate tenor singing voice and an amazing facility for languages. I think he knew how to speak nine of them or more. How one human being can be so talented…
Speaking of Joyce, I have read also Ulysses and would like to read it again at some point in the not-too-distant future. Especially since I’m reading Sylvia Beach’s memoir Shakespeare and Company: The Story of An American Bookshop in Paris.
Also, thanks to Beach’s memoir I now want to read Djuna Barnes Nightwood and Ladies Almanack. Not sure when I’ll get hold of those volumes and make time to read them.
This is what happens to me. I lay out a plan for the next few books to read and then I go and get sidetracked, and the plan gets abandoned. When it comes to books, my curiosity tends to get the best of me and my reading proceeds from one digression to another. The result is that I’ve read widely but not systematically. (And not enough poetry either. Poetry is a whole other story.) I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. Meanwhile, I have a friend who is returning from her trip to India with a copy of Gita Mehta’s Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East, another book I’m keen to read, especially in light of all the recent hoopla over Eat, Pray, Love.
(What did I think of Eat, Pray, Love? Here’s this non-spiritual person’s Twitter-length summary of the book: “OMG Italian food is delicious! OMG Meditation is really really HARD! zOMG Teh Secks w/Felipe is hawt!!!”)
Anyway, I swear, Don Quixote is next to read.