Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Weekend Reading

One long weekend forty years ago, I read Isaac Asimov's autobiography. This was a fat book--the listing at Powell's says 732 pages--that took him to the age of about thirty-five and to his first adultery. Asimov wrote well, but I think that I was propelled by my wonder at how many pages he made of a moderately interesting childhood and youth. The obituaries quoted him as saying that he had never suffered from writer's block, and remembering that weekend I could believe it.

On Friday, I happened to look in at Second Story Books. The clerk was handing me my change when it occurred to me that
  • Dave Eggers is not David Foster Wallace.
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is not Infinite Jest, and
  • I had already read two of Eggers's books without finding a need to read a third.
In the end, I found myself thinking of a passage on Rousseau from Burke's "Letter to a Member of the Constituent Assembly":
He has not observed on the nature of vanity who does not know that it is omnivorous; that it has no choice in its food; that it is fond to talk even of its own faults and vices, as what will excite surprise and draw attention, and what will pass at worst for openness and candour.
Not that the faults and vices recounted in A Heartbreaking Work are especially awful--the recounting just drags on. It is true that there are amusing bits in the memoir, and perhaps were I forty years younger I'd enjoy it more. I read it in a weekend, all I think except the passage in very small type in the afterword, which says something for the book. But I won't be keeping it to read again.

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