Joe Queenan, One for the Books
Yet I understand Queenan when he says that advancing age changes one's perspective on books still unread. Some become higher priorities because time's running out. Others must be scratched off my mental list of books I hope to read someday. Even if I'm still alive and reading 20 years from now, there are some books, actually a lot of books, I'm just never going to get to.
Looking over my library, I notice many such books. I have two volumes of the letters of C.S. Lewis. I might possibly delve into one of them someday. But two? I have the 1938 edition of The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James. Never going to read it. Nor Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville or The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas or The Age of Reason Begins by Will and Ariel Durant.
Queenan looks forward to not reading Manhattan Transfer, but he has a better chance of reading that book than I have of reading the biography of its author John Dos Passos by Townsend Ludington. Nor am I likely to get very far into the four-volume set of A History of Private Life.
As for fiction, I don't like my chances of ever reading The Rains Came by Louis Bromfield, though his Malabar Farm is just a short drive from where I live, or Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I've read most of William Horwood's Duncton Wood trilogy, but then he wrote a second trilogy. I have it, but I don't see myself ever reading it.
I recently tried to read John Updike's Toward the End of Time. It started smartly, then it (or I) turned stupid and I gave up. I own a whole stack of Updike novels. I'm sure most of them will go unread. I like Saul Bellow better, but even so I'm sure I won't get to all of his novels, although I may want to read Henderson the Rain King for a third time before I go.
And so it goes. When I purchased them I was younger and, like Queenan in his youth, felt like all these books, and more, were within my reach. Now I know better.