Books You Can Live Without

Now here’s an end of the year/decade literary debate that’s actually quite interesting, versus the morass of “best of lists”, courtesy of the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from author David Matthews:

Things I will never, ever read:

The authors who get to stay did something the others did not — they saved me.

The biography of Willem de Kooning. Ditto the 600 pages devoted to Wittgenstein’s life and thought. Malraux’s “The Voices of Silence” will remain mute, its spine un-cracked, the book’s presence meant to imply to anyone perusing my “library” that I’m a man of serious ideas and scholarship.

Sadly, I’m too far along to absorb whatever Bertrand Russell’s history of philosophy has to teach me, so out it goes. For that matter, what with the urgency of global warming and recession and deadly flus, I might as well live in the moment, so anything with the words, “The History of…” in the title is, well, history.

And I can safely remainder to charity the Camille Paglia screeds which seemed so edgy in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I mistook her combo of misogyny and classicism for refreshing “political incorrectness.”

On to fiction. Delillo’s “Underworld” can go, because a book can be long, or it can be boring, but it shouldn’t be both. Marquez’s “A Hundred Years of Solitude” makes the scrap heap, because it would take precisely that combination of circumstances before I could be bothered to finish it. Bye, bye Jamaica Kincaid — assigned 20 years ago by a comparative lit professor — you will always be homework to me. Soon, my bookshelf is lean. All muscle and bone…

[courtesy of the New York Times]

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  • theloupgaroukid

    I'll take his copy of Delillo's “Underworld”. Admittedly massive, it does attempt to chronicle American life in the Nuclear Age, its convolutions were anything but boring to me.

    To each his own I suppose…

  • emperorreagan

    I've been working on purging my library the past couple of months. It's grown too bloated over the years.

    Jane Smiley, I think, is closest to the approach I've been using. I have four small book cases – books that I use for work/research, books that I love, books that were gifts/have sentimental value, and books that I want to read but haven't yet.

    I had a surprisingly large number of “books that I read and like leaving sitting on my bookcases so other people will know that I read them.” Confessing to myself that those books were sitting on my shelf for that reason, rather than my enjoyment of said book, has taken me into a second round of purging.

  • Belcat

    I wouldn't throw out history books — very very often, history repeats itself. In fact, in politics, it seems to happen more often, new political capers sound a lot like old political capers, and the media gets manipulated the same way. But this isn't limited to politics neither. So consider reading some of them.

  • Anonymous

    Things I will never read:
    Anything written by Glenn Beck
    Sexy Lawyer Dudes by John Grisham
    Christmas Hijinx by Ted Bundy
    Any title containing the word “Magick”
    Snakes on a Plane 2: The Reckoning by Courtney Love
    My Amazing Life by Courtney Love
    Rand McNally’s The Atlas
    2009 St. Louis Cardinals Merchandise Catalog
    Kirk Cameron’s Big Book of Bananas

  • tonyviner

    Things I will never read:
    Anything written by Glenn Beck
    Sexy Lawyer Dudes by John Grisham
    Christmas Hijinx by Ted Bundy
    Any title containing the word “Magick”
    Snakes on a Plane 2: The Reckoning by Courtney Love
    My Amazing Life by Courtney Love
    Rand McNally's The Atlas
    2009 St. Louis Cardinals Merchandise Catalog
    Kirk Cameron's Big Book of Bananas