Good post by Molly Templeton at tor.com: Every Book in the Right Time
Books come to us when they come, and it’s either their time or it’s not. … You can build the perfect moment, but you have to have some idea what it is. And you have to have the time and inclination to design it, rather than taking the moment that you get. … Still, sometimes the books are late. Or early. Or just off. A friend and I were talking recently about The Secret History, a book I still haven’t read but have, for at least a decade, intended to. She said that most people she knows who first read it as adults hated it. (Did I take this as a challenge? Only slightly.) Those who read it younger, on the other hand, are passionate. Another friend has told me more than once that you have to read The Secret History in the wintertime. Maybe this cold, dark, gloomy start of the year is exactly my time—or exactly the book’s time.
It’s a good post. I’m not reading anything right now, but perhaps soon.
Have you heard of this book Templeton mentions, The Secret History? By Donna Tartt. I had not heard of it. It turns out it’s literary. Here’s the description: Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a way of thought and life a world away from their banal contemporaries. But their search for the transcendent leads them down a dangerous path, beyond human constructs of morality.
My instant reaction: Wow, rush right out. /sarc
I have zero sympathy for the oh-so-sensitive, oh-so-special alienated misfits who just can’t bear the banality of modern life. I have deeply negative sympathy to these superior individuals who discard “human constructs of morality.” I will add that I felt just as strongly repulsed by this sort of protagonist thirty years ago; it wouldn’t matter how old I was when I read this, I would be dropping in the trash the moment a protagonist moaned about the banality of ordinary people and how painful existence is for someone with such special, delicate sensibilities. My reaction to Steppenwolf was For heaven’s sake, get a grip. And see a shrink because you’re obviously clinically depressed.
In fact! You know what this brief description of The Secret History reminds me of? It reminds me of From All False Doctrine, where the charismatic classics professor’s special manuscript is a hoax and the cult based on that manuscript is completely misguided; where the clever, eccentric misfits who get pulled into his cult certainly get led down a dangerous path beyond human constructs of morality; and this that is not at all something desirable.
This year, I am trying—trying!—to alternate old and new. Writing about books means there is always something new I should be reading. But there is also always something old that I should understand—there are always books whose moment I might have thought slid past me, but it didn’t, or books I just never saw before. Or books like The Night Circus, which sat right in front of me, waiting.
Yeah, it would be nice if I finally read some of the books that have been on my TBR pile for a decade or so, including The Night Circus, in fact. Realistically, I probably won’t get to it this year either, but who knows?
Anybody got a book you have kind of wanted to get to for years and years but haven’t? Drop them in the comments and maybe someone will give you an emphatic thumbs up that finally makes you open that book, or a vehement thumbs down that makes you decide not to bother. Either would be valuable!