This morning when I sat down to breakfast Bookman asked whether I had heard Eduardo Galeano had died. Yesterday I said, and Günter Grass too. Bookman commented that we have several fat Galeano novels on our bookshelves. I know, I replied, I’ve always meant to read him. Well now you can finally catch up, Bookman quipped.
Indeed I can. I can catch up on Grass too whom I have also meant to read and haven’t managed.
When authors are alive and writing it is hard to keep up with them sometimes. I mean, they are only writing one book at a time but we are reading all sorts of books all the time. And much as I wanted to read Margaret Atwood’s short story collection that came out last autumn, I still haven’t managed it. It’s lovely little hardcover self sits on my reading table, waiting. In the meantime I have heard she is publishing a novel this autumn. It kind of stresses me out a little. Thank the book gods I am not a huge have-to-read-everything fan of Joyce Carol Oates.
I am sad both Grass and Galeano have died and I look forward to the day I finally read their work and, perhaps, catch up on all of it. It is easier when an author you want to read but have not yet read dies. You can be sad but you can’t really be OMG I’m such a huge fan sad. When authors I do love die it is much harder. I am very sad there will be no more books whether or not I have yet read them all. But weird things happen.
Like when Adrienne Rich died in 2012. I had read all of her published books both poetry and nonfiction. She had just published a new collection of poetry about a year before her death. I had begun reading it, slowly, savoring, taking a long time about it. And then she died. And I stopped reading the book. It is still sitting on my night table. I haven’t picked it up since. It is her last book and when it’s done, it’s done. Sure, there might be some additional poems and nonfiction writing collected up but it won’t be quite the same. I can’t bring myself to finish the book.
Something similar happened when Octavia Butler died so suddenly. I had just discovered her a few years prior and was happily cruising through her newer books and looking forward to reading everything she has published. Then she died. The only book of hers I have read since then is an older collection of short stories. I can’t bring myself to read all the other books because, you know, when I have read them there won’t be any new ones and so nothing to anticipate. At least right now I still have the anticipation of the ones I have not read.
I know it is silly. But I bet all of us readers have some kind something or other that is silly. So now I can catch up on Galeano and Grass. One day I will finish the final poetry book of Adrienne Rich and the remainder of Butler’s books too. Probably.