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Selected Unread Books I’ve Had on My Shelf for 5+ Years and Why I Haven’t Read Them Yet and/or What I Think They Might Be About

Here are my thoughts on some of the books I've had around forever and still haven't fucked with.

I buy a lot of books, am given a lot of books, get mailed a lot of books. Every Christmas I get books. Every birthday I get books. I read a lot of the books, but there’s no way I could read all the books I get, which is a miniscule fraction of all the books published every year, and not even a snort in the dust of all the books published ever. I wonder sometimes who reads any book that ever gets made, and how that works, though I have the same problem wondering how any business stays open with all the other businesses around selling shit too.

I’ve had some books in my house for years and still not read them. I have two black half shelves I keep separate from the shelves with books I’ve read, because I don’t want to seem like a fuck who buys books to stack them up. Many of these books have moved with me over the years and been packed and unpacked again and again and are still there waiting to be opened, and in a way it’s like they are a part of my home now in a different way than the books I have already opened and therefore know something about the insides of. Sometimes maybe I think about these unread books more than I think about the books I’ve read.

Here are my thoughts on some of the books I’ve had around forever and still haven’t fucked with.


Already Dead by Denis Johnson

I think you have to be drunk and wearing sweatpants to read Denis Johnson. I hadn’t owned sweatpants since I was a little kid until a few months ago when I went to Wal-Mart to get some and when I came out on the upper parking deck holding the pants a large woman in the passenger seat of an idling dirty white minivan with a lazy eye and a voice that screamed meth-damage rolled down her window and asked, “Is that Wal-Mart underground?” Then she explained how she’d been drinking at the CNN center with, I imagine, whoever was supposed to be there in the driver’s seat beside her and where was that person now? She sat there staring at us smiling with her mouth open staring until finally she said goodnight and rolled her window up while smoking in the van and then it was like I’d already read every Denis Johnson book ever and so this one will probably stay there on my shelf until I’m dead or decide to move.


The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I really wish this were a book of strategies and tournament results for the year Joan Didion got really into Magic: The Gathering. Seems like she’d play a rarely seen white-blue control deck heavy on birds and life gain spells. I’m pretty sure this is actually about her or someone she knows getting terminally sick, and I can always wait longer to read about that.


Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe

Seems like all of the Kobo Abe books I’ve read are about people getting caught in physically impossible spaces and having weird conversations about food. Which I am totally into, but then when I start a new one I immediately start thinking I read this already. I think it would be good if this one were about Kobo Abe’s experience meeting and falling in love with a woman on Second Life whose avatar is a glass horse, and having to sneak around with his laptop pretending to be writing another novel when really he’s doing cyberfuck, until he finds his real-life lover is actually an 80-year-old man with testicular cancer.


The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera seems like Dr. Phil for women who lay down silk towels to masturbate on so they don’t get the bed wet. I feel ashamed I was ever at a phase in my life when I actually bought this book. Even used. I think I’d be into this if it were a series of joke set-ups that don’t have punchlines because the narrator keeps getting off track, which is what the sex scenes of the one Kundera book I vaguely remember reading felt like.


Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino

This is the book the “fuck Italo Calvino, I’m harder than him and you don’t get it” kid in a fiction workshop at a place like New School or CalArts casually brings in along with his workshop papers and lays it face up on the table and frequently enjoys bringing up ideas like “the physics of a sentence.” I’ve picked this up and sat it on my bed at least four times now like, “I’m going to read this next,” but somehow it always ends up back on the shelf again. Seems like maybe it’s about a circus where everyone got killed in a fire before the book started and now believes they are babies who have found god. Now I can’t stop thinking the dude from the Deftones probably owns a copy of this book and never read it either.


Phone Rings by Stephen Dixon

I have nothing shitty or persnickety to say about Stephen Dixon. He’s one of the strongest ever when it comes to writing about being alone a lot and thinking too much and not really fearing death but expecting it whenever. I can tell you that this book is definitely just about two guys talking on the phone like the title says because Dixon doesn’t need anything more than that to make a book work. He’s got a lot of skin, I think. I think I’m saving this so I have something I can find and think god I am glad I waited to read this now, though I forget everything anyway so maybe I’ll read it next.


A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters by Julian Barnes

Every time I see this book I just think, Monty Python. I also don’t know if I can read anything by a guy named Julian.


The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

I think I bought this because I was at a used bookstore once with my mom and she wanted to buy me a book but I couldn’t find anything and then there was Steve Martin and I grabbed it for the hell of it, even though I stopped letting Steve Martin’s words inside me after he did that one movie where he was fucking the much younger girl, and now honestly often when I see Steve Martin on TV or just his name I can’t stop imagining his balls dangling while he pounds it in all aged.


Kornwolf by Tristan Egolf

Anyone who sees this title is probably going to wish it’s a 1,000-page description of a wolf graphically stalking, torturing, killing, and consuming all the members of the band Korn, or if not that then at least a wolf who creates an 8-string bass and challenges current bassboy “Fieldy” to a slapping competition and is subsequently asked to join the band, after which the bros write their most mature and poorest-selling record to date.


Thirst by Ken Kalfus

I wouldn’t be super surprised if this book were just about someone being really thirsty and not being able to find a drink over like a day or two period of escalating events keeping him from even just dunking his head in a toilet until he finally dies from dehydration, with a blurb from like A.M. Homes calling it “a slapstick postmodern redux of Kafka faced with the new dementia of our consumptive times,” though since it’s by an older white dude I imagine it’s probably about fucking younger women, the author’s “thirst” made manifest as he actualizes his greatest jackoff batter on paper for us all, and so I can just read the Steve Martin book if I ever get hit by a car and totally change my personality and outlook on life and find myself suddenly in the mood for that.


Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor

Pretty sure this is O’Connor’s book of writing advice or thoughts about how writing or reading works, which, like almost any book on those subjects is better left closed. Instead of actual advice or ideologies, a book like this is just a thing you know is there and has some rules that someone else seems to have found true, and by never reading you can just imagine what they are and apply them in your own mind or fuck them up and rebel against yourself instead and probably be better off than the rest, which could be probably true of any book.


Rabbit, Run by John Updike

I thought I threw this away. BRB

More from Blake:

Injecting Mercury 

The Multiplying Hells of Pierre Guyotat

All Language Is Murder

@blakebutler