I even hesitate at the titles I’ve already read, not eager to repeat any experiences, reluctant to admit I wouldn’t remember the books anyway, like Middlemarch, which I was forced to read in Venice at age 20.
George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)
The only store I could find there with English books only had a few, but I ended up traveling so far into that world George Eliot created that I barely left my room in the pensione, foraying out occasionally into that city of mirrors and skies at sundown to watch the clouds gather at the apex of the heavens like soapsuds draining in a reverse bathtub, understanding why Tiepolo and Canaletto and Turner could not get enough of that city.
Then I think that I should read something completely different from my usual picks: a history of Venice in the late eighteenth century, the assembly of the human genome, a biography of the person who invented the smartphone. But I have to confess that facts without beauty or imagination bore me.
No, I can’t decide what book to take out anymore, because every story seems to be about disappointment, so I magnetize toward the volumes by authors whom I’ve heard read in person or have met, knowing their personalities well enough to be sure they won’t betray my hope that the book will offer some bits of topaz, some involuntary chuckles, some ecstasy or indignation to lift me above my cubicle and monitor. But the authors I know, I’ve counted on them too often, and even their books become a disappointment, since their minor works and juvenilia are never up to their masterpieces, the books where I follow the characters in their bustles and redingotes and shakos, reassured that letters can paint as well as nineteenth century artists carrying beechwood boxes full of little tubes of mortared pigments blended with linseed oil and white spirits.
What book, what book? Or maybe I just have to bear down and think of something to write about, something as mundane and ridiculous as what reading matter to choose in the library.
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