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​                                                                          JOURNAL ENTRY #214

                                                                                 August 1, 2016

 

            Over the years, I've been gradually acquiring a stack of books that I desperately want to read but haven't been able to get to. The old joke about trying to catch up on college assignments is applicable. But that old tractor time keeps rolling on. I took last year off, planning, finally, to catch up, or at least make some ground. It didn't happen. Not sure why….

            My high school sophomore year English teacher apparently wasn't certain what to do with us, so he came in every day and read to us. Most of the year was devoted to A Tale of Two Cities. It left me with a determination never to go near Dickens again. But of course Ebenezer Scrooge was a Dickens character. It was hard for me to understand how the guy who created Scrooge also delivered that endless novel. So eventually I tried David Copperfield and concluded that sometimes the same writer can do brilliant stuff and occasionally produce a bomb. I went on to read several other Dickens novels. But not A Tale of Two Cities. I know I need to give it a second chance, so it's on my must-read list. It's been there for about thirty years. Somehow, with my own writing assignments, SF books that I commit to read for blurbs or awards or simply because I'm so easily drawn to the field tend to take my time.

            Mortality, though, is what it is. I'm aware that I don't have forever. Hopefully, after I complete Heart of the Milky Way, and a half-dozen SF reading assignments, I'm going back to the Dickens novel. And maybe a few of his others. .

            I've been a fan of Colombo since Peter Falk first appeared as the character in 1968. (There were other actors earlier.) Which explains why I'm anxious to get to Crime and Punishment. The Dostoyevsky classic features Porfiry Petrovich, a detective who, according to various sources, inspired the character.

            There's a collection of stories by Irwin Shaw, which I'd love to settle in with. I've read only a few since getting the book back in the 60's. They are brilliant, and provide a good model for anyone interested in writing fiction professionally.

            My parents gave me a copy of The Magic of Shirley Jackson as a Christmas present in 1968. They signed the book, which I will finally get to.

            The only Hemingway novel I've read was The Sun Also Rises. It blew me  away and left me ready to read For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell To Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. They're all in my library, waiting for me to show up. There's also the Library of America James Thurber collection. Thurber is hilarious. I think I've read seven of his stories.

            Back during my Navy years, I discovered the Tales From the Arabian Nights. Actually, it might have happened earlier. There were movies about Aladdin, Ali Baba, Scheherazade, and Sinbad the Sailor. I owned a copy of Richard Burton's translation, and enjoyed parts of it. But it disappeared somewhere. A year ago I discovered a new edition in a New Jersey bookstore and grabbed it. It too is waiting for me.

            A few science books are on the list, but some have become obsolete. A couple that probably haven't, though I don't know since I've never gotten to them: The 5th Miracle (whose subtitle is 'The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life), by Paul Davies, 1999. Others include Before the Big Bang, by Brian Clegg, 2011; A Brief History of the Mind, by William H. Calvin, 2004; and Infinitesimal (subtitle: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World), by Amir Alexander, 2014. 

            And of course, some history: Eisenhower and the American Crusades, by Herbert S. Parmet, which I picked up in the early 70's, and Civilization (subtitle: A New History of the Western World), by Roger Osborne, 2006.

            I bought a two-volume set of The Complete Greek Drama in Tokyo, probably in 1961. It's edited by Whitney Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr., son of the prize-winning playwright. I've read a few of the plays, and would like very much to get to the rest.

            Well, it will be a challenge, but it's glorious to look forward to.