Last year I read fewer books than I have in any year since I started keeping track (in 2014). Most of this was because of the newborn baby sleeping in our room for about six months, so it’s not exactly something I’m down on myself about, but it does make me want to set out some goals before getting into the year rather than just reading whatever drifts into my hands. Here are some things I’d like to read this year, loosely, in no real order:
The Anatomy of Melancholy. I bought the NYRB edition of this with an introduction by William H. Gass, and I read the introduction and then shelved the book. Having thumbed through it, it seems like a work that one can thumb through for decades and never actually “finish”, so my goal for this year isn’t so much to finish it as to read as much of it as I can manage.
William Gaddis, again. I read The Recognitions a long time ago, and JR not long after that. They both loom large in my imagination, and Gaddis’ dialogue remains maybe the most distinctive voice this side of Faulkner, but other than Carpenter’s Gothic a couple years ago it mostly remains in the past. There are two whole novels still to read, and while The Recognitions feels intimidating as a re-read, JR feels more doable. I want to return to Gaddis, in general, in whatever form that takes.
JG Ballard. I’ve never read any Ballard and people whose opinions I respect tell me that’s a mistake.
Poetry. There was a time in my life when choosing whether the concentration of my creative writing degree would be in fiction or poetry was a major decision, one over which I agonized, or at least some small-scale version thereof. I haven’t read it much in years, other than plowing through Sylvia Plath’s collected poems in 2017, and there’s a whole world out there. There have been poems in the last six months that have made my heart feel like it was about to burst. I need more of that (and, really, everyone does, but these are my reading goals).
Ishmael Reed. Another author people keep bringing up with whom I’m totally unfamiliar.
The Confidence-Man. I bought a really nice copy of Melville’s The Confidence-Man at Powell’s in Portland years ago, and so far haven’t made it more than 20 pages in before putting it down and picking up something else. I know there’s something here—there always is with Melville—but I don’t know what it is yet, and so this one more than anything else on the list feels a bit like it’s taunting me, daring me to try it again.