Weblog Archives

  Friday  January 30  2004    10: 52 AM


Melancolie de Januaire
by Garrison Keillor


Here we are filled with melancolie de Januaire as Marcel Proust said in his Remembrance of Things Past (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu) all about his experience temping at Purdue University and his romance with the mysterious Madeleine, that delectable little cupcake. He returned to Paris and to Mama but could never forget her or Purdue and this pain drove him to create magnificent art that nobody would read, at least not anyone whom I know personally, though many of them have a copy of R.O.T.P. right there smack in the middle of their bookshelf.

Let us talk about unread books for a moment, dear reader. They are filling up my house and perhaps yours and what are we going to do about it? A tower of books stands on my bedside table swaying slightly in the dark, Dante and Herman Melville and Dickens's Great Expectations and Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time and about forty-three other books I've purchased from Powells.com over the past few months. You know how it is when you browse a great independent bookstore web site. You're filled with noble ambitions to finally Catch Up on your reading so you don't feel like such a dolt when everyone at the dinner party except you has read Man Athwart the Midden by Soutane Tippet that everybody and his uncle is reading nowadays. You want to be abreast of what's current in the World of Thought and also you want to read the books you were assigned to read in college lo those many years ago. Yes, you feel bad about not having read Moby Dick and yet getting an A in Miss Pickett's 19th-Century American Novel class thanks to your brilliant term paper, "The Prosthetics of Obsession: Ahab's Peg Leg As Instrument of Exclamation." So you order it, and Jane Austen and Boswell's Life of Johnson and Johnson's multi-volume biography by Robert Caro and a few other tomes and now they teeter eleven feet high over your bed and could fall and give you a concussion. This has happened. There are seriously ugly people walking around who were as good-looking as you or me until a stack of unread books fell on them as they slept. Poor things.