A Portrait of My Failures as a Critic
“Every book in the world is out there waiting to be read by me” – Roberto Bolano, The Savage Detectives
2012 took forever. Moments came and went when things seemed exciting or new or whatever, but all in all it was a long year filled with strange decisions and I came out of it with a pile of books that I’d either ordered late at night because I’d been struck with some desire to “know completely the works of Slavoj Zizek” or that I’d agreed impulsively to review a tome describing the life of such-and-such Avant Gardist because I liked the idea of discussing literature at length in a “public” arena like HTMLGIANT.
Because of this strong desire to be as well-read as possible, balanced against the harsh reality of not having enough fucking time on my hands, there’s now a plethora of things I haven’t finished, haven’t fully reviewed, or haven’t begun to understand that sit on my shelf that—although I can easily discern their respective merits—I can’t see having the time for in the foreseeable future. As a result I’m going to review them, or review their covers, or review their quotes, or whatever; as a collective mea culpa while perhaps discussing the rigors of ambition/the insurmountable plague that is my laziness.
On the surface, this is a lazy approach to make up for my being a disorganized moron; however when I look at these books and think of where I was when I threw my hat into the ring to review them I understand that there’s a bit more to it than that. As a reader—especially a young reader—I think it’s tempting to hope for some sort of Johnny Neumonic device that allows all of Tolstoy or Perec or whomever to immediately flood my consciousness. If this weren’t such a temptation, no living human would ever walk out of a bookstore with more than five books; and yet I typically see those favorite bloggers or writers of mine on the internet citing their interest in more like ten, or fifteen books that they’ve just picked up or received in the mail. As a result I have to believe that on occasion the proverbial/collective eyes are trounced by the collective stomach, and as readers we constantly have to face the guilt of not yet delving into certain editions that loom over us like aggressive schoolteachers.
I admit my problem at the outset. I have no trouble saying “mea culpa” and moving on to think about another review of “Big L’s lyrics” to cheer myself the fuck up. Living is bullshit. I think we’ve all discovered this for the most part and it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that in said “living is bullshit” frames of mind the last thing I want to do is read a book for review. I want to watch TV, or read Jim Thompson, or fuck off into the confines of my stupid head for a couple of weeks and completely shirk my duties; and yet for all that self-assuredness in my decision(s) to put off a review another week or so, we have the guilt.
January 16th, 2013 / 12:00 pm