Book people enjoy lists. I'm not sure why. We scan best-seller lists. We buy a few volumes from Amazon.com and then read the list of recommended titles generated by the bookseller's database. When The Modern Library composed its lists of the 100 best novels and 100 best nonfiction books of the century, we read them, probably against our better judgment. I have at home more than one book composed of nothing but recommended books listed by various categories. I should probably spend less time reading lists and more time reading books.
So reading what other biblioholics hoped to read this summer was a sort of guilty pleasure. I could peruse one list and congratulate myself for having already read several of the titles. I could scan another one and suddenly feel ignorant because not only had I not heard of the book, I'd never heard of the author. I don't feel too bad about not yet getting to The Footnote: A Curious History, or essays on music by Ernst Krenek, but I suppose it's past time that I tackle Proust and Stendhal.
One thing I found fascinating was the excitement generated
by new translations. The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, The
Charterhouse of Parma--all springing off the shelves thanks
to new renditions. Old works revivified. Matthew Roller in the
Hopkins classics department tells me that there's a new movement
in translation, away from bowdlerizing texts. That is,
translators have begun leaving in the raunchy parts of classical
texts by authors such as Aristophanes. That ought to merit a few
more hits on Amazon.com.
RETURN TO JUNE 2000 TABLE OF CONTENTS.