As I do shelf by shelf, I am finding that the monoculture shelves are kind of boring to write about. Not because I find the authors boring, be silly to own so many if I felt that way, but it just isn’t that interesting when there aren’t a lot of different authors on the shelves. But it also makes me worry what I will do if I keep collecting the full catalog of authors I like. I could end up with full shelves but few authors. But two things come to mind:
1. Just because I love an author doesn’t mean I have to keep every book by her/him if I don’t love every title. I’ve already done this with Margaret Atwood. I’ve read Alias Grace two times and I found it just as boring the second time as I did the first, so I gave it away. I also sent her most recent novel on its way as well. I wasn’t bored by it, but I did find it a let done after the brilliant MaddAddam books. I’m also going to do this with Timothy Findley (not to pick on another Canadian). I went through a period fifteen years ago where I wanted to read and own everything by him. But one of these days I am going to start re-reading that collection and if I don’t love it, it goes. I have a feeling Murdoch is headed for the same treatment, but more on that below.
2. As I have been plowing my way through that stack of 26 hardcover novels that I purchased in the last year, I have been ruthless about what I keep. I’m starting to settle more and more on the idea that I am only going to keep books that I think I may want to re-read. I realize that some of my urge to keep certain books is because I like the physical proof that I read them, or I want imaginary guests in my library to think I have wide ranging tastes, or read important books, or something silly that. I don’t need to prove any of those things. So these days, my approach that, aside from my TBR, I’m only keeping books I think I will want to re-read. It’s really quite liberating.
SHELF EIGHTEEN: 27 books, 14 unread, 13 read, 48% completed
Murdoch, Iris – The Black Prince
Murdoch, Iris – The Bell (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – The Sand Castle (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – The Italian Girl (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – An Unofficial Rose
Murdoch, Iris – The Book and the Brotherhood
Murdoch, Iris – The Philosopher’s Pupil (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – The Green Knight
Murdoch, Iris – Under the Net (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – A Word Child (completed)
Murdoch, Iris – The Good Apprentice
Murdoch, Iris – The Red and the Green
Murdoch, Iris – Nuns and Soldiers (completed)
That is quite a load of Murdoch. I am a little surprised I’ve read that many of them. I thought there were more of them I hadn’t gotten to yet. And on top of these I have read an additional eight that I have read that I don’t own. Wow, that makes 16 Murdoch novels that I have read. And that, brings me back to my discussion above about monculture shelves. Since I took this photo a few months ago, I re-read The Italian Girl and I must say I wasn’t a fan. I’ve already put it on the donate pile. And it’s made me rethink how I feel about her work in general. Even without re-reading I know I will keep a few of these and I know that I will probably want to re-read The Sea, The Sea, and A Fairly Honourable Defeat for sure and I don’t even own them. And I have yet to read (or own) A Severed Head, which I know some people swear by. There is still much I love about Murdoch, so regardless of how many I get rid of, I’m pretty sure I will always have more than a few of her novels on my shelves.
I would be remiss if I did not say something about Under the Net, Murdoch’s first novel. I say it is my favorite Murdoch, but it was also my first, so it has been some years since I read it. I’m very curious to see what I would think of it now and to be reminded of the young Murdoch. However, the real story here is that on my first date with my husband I mentioned how much I loved Under the Net. A week later, after returning to DC from a business trip, John gave me that very nice first edition–on our third date no less. Any wonder why I kept him?
Naipaul, V.S. – The Mimic Men
Naipaul, V.S. – In a Free State (completed)
Despite some of the truly stupid things Naipaul has said in recent years, I still like his novels. I’ve read his more famous titles The Enigma of Arrival, A Bend in the River, and A House for Mr. Biswas. And those I think I would re-read. Hmm, something to buy.
Nichols, Beverly – A Thatched Roof
Nichols, Beverly – Laughter on the Stairs
Nichols, Beverly – Merry Hall
Nichols, Beverly – Down the Garden Path
I hope I like these more than I liked Evensong. These are house and garden related so even I hate them I probably can’t get rid of them until John has read them. Funnily, when I was a kid I checked out Down the Garden Path from the library just because it had a few illustrations.
Norris, Frank – The Octopus
I bought this doorstop just because I like these Penguin editions. We will see if I ever read it.
O’Brien, Kate – Mary Lavelle
O’Brien, Kate – The Land of Spices
O’Farrell, Maggie – Instructions for a Heatwave (completed)
O’Farrell, Maggie – After You’d Gone (completed)
O’Farrell, Maggie – The Hand That First Held Mine (completed)
O’Farrell, Maggie – The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (completed)
Nothing really to say here is that I love O’Farrell. The Hand that First Held Mine is the only advanced copy I have ever accepted from a publisher. (I’m pretty sure that is true.) She is an author I will never hesitate to buy.
NEXT TIME: Pym to Persephone (don’t ask, it gets v. complicated)