Today I am very pleased to announce that our catalogue is finally finished and ready to help you with any and all of your searching! As I looked through the entries, I found that we’re only missing entries for the letters O, X, and Z. This seemed too small a number to just ignore, so consider me now on the quest for books with authors whose last names begin with those letters. Any suggestions for X’s and Z’s?
On the O front, I’ve actually already read more O’s than I thought and apparently just never posted about them here, so let me rectify that situation straight away with a few words on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father, and Penelope Orth’s An Enviable Position followed up by the promise of a good old-fashioned Rereadings post on The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy on the way as soon as I can find a copy.
I suppose I didn’t write about O’Brien, Obama, and Orth not because I apparently am subconsciously intent on perpetrating some kind of anti-O conspiracy, but because in some ways I was too affected by these books to write about them.
The Things They Carried in particular haunted me after I read it in college. I think it was the first really heavy book I’d read and, when I finished it, my hands were literally shaking and I felt nauseated. I remember chastising myself for my general historic cowardliness that stopped me from delving into twentieth century history at all for fear of being too moved. I’m still the same—as a recent example, a friend and I did not go to Auschwitz during a visit to nearby Krakow for the same reasons—although now I’m not sure if it is cowardice, a form self-defense, or just practical. After reading O’Brien’s book I couldn’t function for hours and it haunted my thoughts for days, preventing me from doing much else other than wallowing. There are important events in the twentieth century, but are they worth putting myself through that kind of reaction? Surely an awareness of their existence and a basic knowledge of their facts is sufficient. Even if I’ve apparently decided that these events are not worth it, I still would never wish I hadn’t read The Things They Carried. It was an unbelievable experience to read such a powerful book.
In contrast, Dreams of My Father and An Enviable Position moved me more to puzzlement than shaking wonder. In both cases, I knew that I had personal reactions and that there were things I wanted to say about each book and the points made therein, but I just never found the right words. Dreams urged me towards some kind of race discussion, but, perhaps in classic race discussion form, I didn’t know where to start. And it seemed platitudinous to ignore the heavier issues of the book in favor of a simple stylistic review as if it were just a well-written autobiography. Similarly, An Enviable Position made my feminist heart lurch, but, again, I couldn’t even find the right place to begin digesting or critiquing a book so earnest in its discussion of “modern” position of the American mistress. I still haven’t found the right words, but they still eat at me and I know there is plenty to say.
So I guess my O books are all books that made me feel deeply but in ways so ineffable that I just never posted about them. What about you, dear readers? Do you have books with wordless reviews bouncing around your head? Or did you read any of these in particular and had a similar or completely different reaction? Share your thoughts below!