People I know are talking about “Patty” and “Walter” as if they were their new best friends. They’ve been reading Freedom, the new novel from Jonathan Franzen, and arguing over whether it’s a Great American Novel. I’m not reading it anytime soon. I didn’t like Franzen’s The Corrections — in the minority, I know — and nothing I’ve read in the rave reviews of Freedom makes me think I’m going to like Patty and Walter any more than the dysfunctional Lamberts of Corrections.
Besides, I’m too busy reading lists of forthcoming books and thanking my lucky stars I no longer have to compile one. Season preview was one of the most labor-intensive and least-rewarding parts of my former life as a book critic, especially before publishing websites and blogs and on-line bookstores. The fall catalogs would start arriving in spring before the huge annual book convention now known as BookExpo (ABA to us veterans), a marathon of meetings with publicists to go over the coming-soon lists and interviews with writers with new books. It was books for breakfast, lunch, dinner and into the night. I loved almost every minute of it, except when I had to file stories from the West Coast to meet East Coast deadlines, and I’d find myself talking to some lonely computer tech about why my copy wasn’t getting through. And that was just the preview story in June before the real season preview story in late August and the all-important list to be checked and double-checked in case I overlooked Updike or the next would-be Updike.
Enough nostalgia. Now on this Labor Day, I am rather lazily looking at other people’s lists, mentally noting what I want to add to my already towering TBR stack. Oh, goody, I think, spotting a new Ruth Rendell, a John le Carre, a Dennis Lehane. Oh, I didn’t know Julia Glass had a new novel. Janet Evanovitch, of course. David Sedaris! Yes! No! Stop! I’m not going to make a list.
Nope, I’m going to be surprised when I walk in a bookstore or receive a galley in the mail or happen on a blog announcing “Five Mysteries Not to Miss.” I’m going to stop reading about books not here yet and start reading the ones piled by the sofa, desk, bed or already nooked in my e-reader. Besides, the way my memory is these days, I’m likely to forget about a book coming in a couple of months. So, remind me, please, I really do want to read Nora Ephron’s new collection of humorous essays, I Remember Nothing. Think it comes out in November.