I picked up a book by Nick Hornby a few weeks ago in Barnes and Noble. I had time to waste because of my tiresand my car–a long story– and I enjoyed How to Be Good and also Hi-Fidelity and About a Boy so I read a few of his essays and they read more like blog entires than essays and that made me feel good. I also liked the story “Nipple Jesus” that was in a collection of British writers a few years back. I also enjoy his blog. Anyway I like the way he swims in his essays between books–hi-brow and lo–and music and popular culture. Not quite intellectual but very real. And he has great taste in music. In his essays and things he lists movies and books he has read.
And what I enjoyed finding was the list of abandoned books he includes every month. And at least every other month he has one or two abandoned books. Failed readings, he calls them. I have many of those myself I am afraid to talk about. They sit there on my shelf or in my bag and I imagine they sneer when I bring in new books from work or from a used bookstore.
My latest abandoned book is Tree of Smoke. I was so upset at the review a year ago in the NYTimes but 150 pages in I lost something from the prose. Another abandoned text I am sure I will return to. But it is hard to when you have to reread Kerouac and Bukowski for a class and also when you find Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels at the bookstore or when you also find Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. I also have movies I have not finished from NetFlix and I don’t feel as bad about those films as I feel bad about those books.
I know I will complete Johnson’s book over time–I do have it on tape as well though I listen to Rachel Maddow’s podcast during off times–but failed reading seems to go hand in hand with failed writing. Perhaps Johnson would forgive me if he saw the inch of progress on the Cornbread Project.