07 April 2011

Dragged by my heels into modern times

I went to one of my favorite second-hand bookshops last week and came away with an armload of books. It never occurs to me to wonder where all these new literary "friends" will go. It's not until I walk through the door and see all the little stacks of books everywhere that I realize my house is becoming more and more like a library.

One of the books was a paperback copy of Light in August by William Faulkner.  I'm embarrassed to say that it's the first and only book I've ever owned by this author.  In fact it's one of the only books I've ever owned by a modern-day "classic" American writer. Unlike all of my well-read contemporaries, I've never read anything by the so-called "lions" of 20th century American literature:  Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Faulkner.

This doesn't mean that I haven't read recent books, and by recent I mean by authors who are actually still living.  I have, and I do. I love the work of Donna Tartt, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Kostova, Alexander MacCall Smith, Antonia Frasier, Jacqueline Winspear, Nathaniel Philbrick, Nick Bantock, to name a few. (One of my 'finds' was a hardbound copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt—something I've wanted to own ever since reading a copy I borrowed from a friend.) Although admittedly, many of the "new" authors I read are writing about times past.  (Does that still count?)

But yes, books like Hemingway and Faulkner are in the minority on my shelves, because for the most part I've spent my time reading books from (or about) the 18th and 19th centuries:  Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Charles Dickens, Mary Webb, George Eliot, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, E.F. Benson.

It's time I corrected this deficiency.  Time to fill in the gaps, take a deep breath, and step into the 20th century.  If not in my mindset and disposition, then at least in the pages of a book.

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