Over the weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a summer reading preview in which it asked many of its contributors about books that they were looking for. Darby Dixon III has written recently about the dangers of anticipating new books. And the issue of having too many interesting books to read has caused grumblings even from the most robust readers. It’s not that we don’t want to read these books. We just don’t know when we’ll read them. Speaking for myself, William T. Vollmann’s Imperial sits in the pile, and it looks like it might devour some of the smaller books as snacks. (To give you some sense of the problem, Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist and Richard Powers’s Generosity are 50 cent bags of Doritos by comparison. Is this really fair?)
But you can’t just stick with the tried and true. There are books from emerging authors and small presses that must not be overlooked! There are good books that are being ignored. There are books that don’t stand a chance if everybody’s looking forward to the new Lethem.
This begs the question of whether we should be asking some of these these authors to stop writing for six months so that some of us may catch up on our reading and be fair to all the books. Or perhaps we should ask the federal government to bail out readers so that literary culture can thrive. Then again, it’s possible that we may approach a six month window in which there is nothing particularly worthwhile to read. And then America can be humiliated yet again with another public denouncement from Horace Engdahl that only people like Harold Augenbraum will actually care about. The rest of us will catch up with the backlog.
There’s a new David Mitchell novel and a new Scarlett Thomas novel set for publication in 2010. It just doesn’t stop, does it?
There has to be a solution to all this. And the Chicago Sun-Times is to be commended for its salubrious idea. But I’d like to take the experiment further. Instead of just listening to the experts, what about readers as a whole? If you’ve never left a comment on this website, your time to get conversational has come. What books are you looking forward to this year? Who are the authors that jazz you up? Please know that the answers aren’t limited to literary titles. This is not a snobbish query, but a curious one. Which books are you looking forward to in 2009?
© 2009, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.