They become the books you won’t read. Recently a friend at church told me he’d bought two more books by Rodney Stark, which immediately made me say: I haven’t really got into that other one you gave me yet – it’s been sitting beside my bed. He knew instantly what I meant, and agreed that that isn’t the place to put books you want to read.
Apart from Mr Stark’s book, For the Glory of God, I also have a half-read copy of The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge, which another friend at church recommended and which I haven’t really, in all honesty, been able to get enthused about. I find Goudge rather sticky somehow: overly concerned with analysing her characters, characters who are not very true – to me, anyway – in the first place.
Then there’s the pamphlet-sized, Rhymes of Second Childhood – a gift item for those who at last have come to their senses, by Arthur (Grandpa) Stavig. I wrote about Mr Stavig in the Taonga magazine (when I was still writing columns for them) and the particular column is online here. That will explain a good deal more than I've got room to say at present about his weird sense of humour.
The next book turns out to be a kid’s book called Furze the Fixer. This is by a friend of mine, Lorraine Orman. She and I corresponded by email for years talking about her writing and mine, and since then she’s become quite well published, with two or three young adult books available, and several of the Kiwi Bites series published (including the one I’ve just mentioned). I have read this – it just happens to be mixed in with the pile.
Next is A Vivid Steady State, by Lawrence Bourke. It’s a kind of literary assessment of one of my favourite poets, Australian Les Murray. But I haven’t really got my teeth into this book at all.
Now comes As Big As a Father, by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman. Jeffrey is a NZ poet who has published at least two books of poetry that I can think of. He and I had some brief correspondence by email a couple of years ago; he was on the emailing list of the shop I ran. I think I might have actually read all the poems in this book and his other one too!
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch and The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene follow next. Good old Penguin paperbacks. I’ve read them both, I think, in the past – certainly the Murdoch, which I remembered reading with great enjoyment. A second attempt as a much more mature person showed that it wasn’t the book I remembered at all!
Penultimately, Janet Frame’s The Goose Bath – poems. In hardback. With a nice dust jacket. All clean and nearly new. And mostly unread. Not because I don’t like the poems, but because you can’t read a book of poems straight off, and so, foolishly, I put the book beside my bed, and…
Finally, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes. Now I know I’ve read this through – if that’s what you say about what you do with a book of comic strips. It’s wonderful, great, marvellous, superb. Full of intelligence and wit, and at least five great comic strip characters. Bill Watterson can fly from intellectual musings to great hilarity –sometimes within four little cartoons. Hobbes is the all-time childhood companion, which reminds me of some companions of ours I’ll write about in another post later.
So there we are: some read, some not – which rather puts my theory to the test. And back beside the bed they go, until they all get a reprieve.