New Year’s is a good time to entertain possibilities. And while I consider them, I usually clean house as a kind of doubled bonus. New year, new ideas, clean house, only this year, I didn’t quite get to it. There was the entertaining: the short ribs, the chocolate cake. Our college boy was home. There were those few days in Montreal.
I begin in my office. I ignore my desk. I will clean it, certainly, but that’s a job for working hours. The bookshelves, however, floor-to-ceiling, linen white, fall under house cleaning.
Dust cloth in hand, up and down the ladder, I consider what I have. More than half the library is fiction, most of it recent. The rest is one shelf of essay, nine business, four project-related, four law, two poetry, two short story, one of interviews, one philosophy, two on writing, a shelf of new reading, and a shelf reserved for authors whose lives have intersected mine. The art books, chiefly photography, are in another room.
As I clean, I consider: Will I really read that again? Do I want it for memory’s sake?
Two days later, I have twenty-two grocery bags and two boxes readied for Goodwill. I pass along some very fine writers.
I wonder if I should be shocked or embarrassed by the sheer volume of it. I think how a Kindle would hide this consumption, which might be a reason (not really) to reconsider it. And then, finally, I come to my senses.
Whether acquired from a bookstore or library, the flea market or the basement of the Strand, a writer needs to read—not as a yardstick, not as a club, but from the desire to satisfy appetite and amplify one’s sense of the possibilities. And whatever else a writer needs, things you will read about here, a heightened sense of what’s possible is what will drive the work.