Overdue Admiration

I am now reading a book I am certain I will finish, yet I don't want to ever finish it.  It's not the kind of book that you read slower and slower towards the end because you love the characters and aren't ready for them to leave your life.  No, this book I'm now carrying with me is the type of book that many people would not find appealing at all, being a detailed account of the author's attempt to recall what she remembers and what she doesn't remember about a relationship she had long ago. It is one of those books that I can only read in small bits because it is so rich.  Reading a few paragraphs or even a few sentences triggers in me the need to write, usually something somewhat similar to what this author has already written.

I admitted to a friend that I was reading this writer's books, but that it was hard for me to admit because there is a distinct possibility that in light of this knowledge, everything that I write will seem like a cheap imitation.  This friend tried to reasure me that my work is not a cheap imitation of the writer's work I admire, but that her work happens to be like my work which is why I like her work so much, just as I like Saul Steinberg's drawing because they resemble my own.  I suppose these are the same tendencies that cause us to admire shoes in the shoe store window that are nearly identical to the ones we are already wearing.

This particular book is a novel, though I was first acquainted with this author's short stories, a thick collection that my mother-in-law gave to me a couple of Christmases back.  Because I was used to reading her short stories which are often very short, sometimes even one sentence, though more often several pages long, and because I read at random, flipping the book open and reading whatever was on the page before me, I was at first disappointed that the only other book the library owned of hers was a novel.  So at first, I read the book at random, as if it were a collection of short stories, opening to any page and reading until I was inspired to write.  But at some point I wondered how it was she structured this novel that could be enjoyed, by me at least, in this random fashion.  Now, I'm reading the book in a traditional manner.  I encounter the sections I already read, but since the book itself attempts to reflect the random structure of memory, and since she often repeats certain things about her characters, it is unclear to me whether I did actually read this passage before, whether she is recalling a different passage I already read, or whether I simply imagined a similar passage based on other passages.

Even though I love this book, it is sometimes discouraging to read, since she wrote it and I didn't.  All this is somewhat embarrassing mind you, the way it's embarrassing to look back on how you behaved when you were first in love with a person who so totally consumed you, you began to talk and dress and act just like them.

That said, it is entirely possible that my admiration for this book might fade before I finish reading it.   If that happens, this book may get buried under other books and newspapers and stacks of towels, and I will forgot about it until I receive a terse note from the library reminding me it's overdue.  I will try to find it but may fail, this being weeks from now, mind you, when this writer I so admire, annoys me more than inspires me, when I have moved on to shadow a different sort of writer altogether.  


  1. of course now I want to know who the writer is. But that is beside the point, I understand. The drawing, however, is a fabulous rendition of the hair(sic)-brained idea. Thanks.

  2. Something akin to the feeling of writing themes for Bernstein and Daily, perhaps.