Sunday Notes

This week I abandoned seven paperback books, all non-fiction, by leaving them on a series of trains, to be found, I hope, by curious readers, diverting their reading down unexpected paths.

When acquiring books that are not novels I’m learning that I must read them soon after their acquisition. Such purchases are often driven by whimsy, perhaps sparked by a conversation on In Our Time or some article read in a journal or news piece, or by appreciating when reading a novel that I could understand better, for example, the Byzantine empire, or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Such momentary fascinations often fade, leaving unread books in my library, a breadcrumb trail of once heated, now cooled passions.

In this unholy spirit I’ve been vacillating over Sarah Ruden’s translation of The Gospels. It might make a fine companion to a small shelf of modern, partly-read, lucid translations of the Bible.

I almost bought Rob Doyle’s Autobibliography, including it in a small pile to take to the tills before replacing it on the table. In it he writes, “When I think about Bolaño . . . invariably I find my way to the conclusion that what I’m primarily in it for is friendship. That may sound corny, but there is no word that better conveys how I experience my relationship to his books.” I understand the sentiment and could say the same of writers like Gabriel Josipovici, Anthony Rudolf, or Annie Ernaux.

The only book I read through this week is Ellis Sharp’s Lamees Najim. The tension of the title is resolved in the final sentence. The book is the antecedent to Sharp’s equally compelling Twenty-Twenty.