I am, in small doses, going through my bookshelves. I´m getting rid of most of it, I think. Today, I have these examples to show you:
Milorad Pavic´s "Dictionary of the Khazars" from 1984. This is the Male Edition. I bought the Female Edition as well, but could never find the difference between them. Bet he made money off that joke! Anyway, the novel was about the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism, and the story was told in three parts, or encyclopedias, a Muslim, a Judaic and a Christian. It was all very fantastic, a lot about dreams, odd creatures, strange people.
I liked the idea, but I never fell in love with the story. Perhaps because there was no story! Not a conventional one, anyway. Without a protagonist, who are you going to feel for? No, these books will have to go. I will not read them again.
James A Michener´s "The Source" from 1965. I always ment to re-read this. I had several of his, like "Hawaii" and "Caravans", but this is the one that really made an impression on me. However, I think it´s time has passed.
It was a great read for it´s epic qualities, present-day chapters about an archeological dig in Israel was layered with flashbacks to the time-period they were presently exploring. It gave some insight into Jewish history, I think. I most vividly remember a man who came to his Jewish faith and circumcised himself! I would recommend this book to anyone, you´ll easily find it at any library, anywhere, Michener is one of the great American writers, I think, he didn´t win the Pulizer for nothing!
Sándor Márai, from 1942. This one I picked up in Budapest at the English bookstore. It is a very sad story, a meeting between two men, they used to be friends but are turned enemies over a woman. It is also about a marriage going really bad. Actually, I seem to remember only one of them talking, the other one listening, but you got the sense that the other´s silence was comment in itself. You know how you sometimes listen to someone being very wordy about something, being very insistent that this is the way it is, and the more they try to persuade you, the less you believe them? That´s the feeling I got.
Apart from that, it gives some glimpse of Hungarian life in the 19th Century. It does have a nostalgic feel to it.
James Thurber´s "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and other short stories". The main story was first published in 1939, and a film with Danny Kaye in the role of the great day-dreamer Walter Mitty was made in 1947. I remember that film from when I was a kid, that´s why I bought the book in the first place.
Actually, I can´t remember anything else about this book. It´s a classic, of sorts, but not what I (or anyone else, I think) would call Great Literature. I can´t even boast about having read Thurber, because I suspect only one person in my entire acquaintance might know who he is...
Henry David Thoreau, from 1854. I had a period when I romanticised Thoreau and the transcendentalists, in the early 80´s. I have always had this attraction to solitude and simplicity and Thoreau seemed to know something about it. But it was more about what I wanted to find in his work than what I actually found there, and now I can´t find a single underlining, a single bookmark in that book. I have been much more influenced on these matters by Thomas Merton, for example. (Who´s books I will never give away!)
I think a lot of the books I have kept over the years have been books that are somehow invested in the idea of who I am, rather than books that I actually read and that actually gave me something. It´s a bit like having a dress in your wardrobe that makes you look just like the person you want to be, in the kind of life you want to live. But you never wear it, because you just aren´t and you won´t. It´s a Walter Mitty-ish kind of collection. Perhaps owning up to who I actually am is what´s enabling me to get rid of these books finally. I have lugged them around long enough, I think!