I’m reading Donna Tartt right now. I discovered her thanks to a tweet from Crawford Gribben and as a result picked up her first book and enjoyed it immensely. She has to be one of the great writers of our age, along with Vodolazkin. Tartt writes a book every ten years or so, which is faster than Susanna Clarke does. I think it is one of the luckiest things in the world that I live in the days of skilled and humane writers such as Tartt and Vodolazkin. And when I think, moreover, that there were people doomed to live and die in a world without the works of the Inklings, I am grateful I live in this present evil age.
It may be the twilight of the age of the book, according to the late John Lukacs, but that should mean we have all the best ones, including his. And I am grateful for it since books are my thing–because I am a reader. My mother taught me to read, keeping me out of school to teach me to read English before I started in Spanish. She also taught me to read by reading to me. There are people who do not read well, and it is no joy to have them read anything to you. They can make books sound fake and stupid. But that’s not how my mom read. I actually believe that that is what made all of her kids readers, mainly: that she read to us well. And if you can do that for somebody as she did, constantly, patiently, night-by-night for years and years, you will give them much.
I can’t imagine life without fiction. I keep steeling myself for life without any good, new fiction but am constantly surprised. I had never read Vodolazkin before 2016, or Tartt before 2018. I had tried Powys before, and failed, and, like Moby Dick, after I matured in understanding and widened my sympathies and consciousness, I was able to read it eagerly. I’ve made it through Powell with joy, and all this with promising lacunae: War & Peace, for example, and most of Scot and Trollope. There’s a lot of garbage being written, but not all of what is written is garbage. Interesting books have been written in my life time, and how many ages can boast so many as we presently do? I don’t know how many years of my life will add up to reading fiction, but they will be among the happiest.