I received some astonished looks the other day when I mentioned that I was in the middle of reading Robert Lowell’s collected poetry, with the intention of reading all a thousand plus pages of it. And so I wonder if anyone else has this kind of tendency, that is, reading collections from start to finish, and, parallel to this, the tendency to read anything you can get your hands on from your favorite writers. These are some of the most satisfying things for me to do as a reader. This was once again confirmed for me as I prepared for my panel “On the Well-Tempered Sentence” by reading, and in most cases rereading, all the books by the panel members, that is, John Haskell, Gary Lutz, Ben Marcus, and Christine Schutt. And it set me to thinking about how often I’ve done this, that is, read all the books of a writer that I loved. And so, here’s my list, not to show off, but to share, and to see if anyone else has this kind of tendency:
Mary Caponegro, Hart Crane (all of his poetry, not the letters; not yet, that is), Leon Forrest, William Gass, Anne Michaels, Wallace Stevens, Amy Hempel, James Joyce, and the abovementioned panel members: John Haskell, Gary Lutz, Ben Marcus, and Christine Schutt; and there are more than a few that I have only a few books to read and then will have read all their books, like Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie. And I’ve read most, if not all of Rilke’s poetry, as well as The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, in multiple translations.
So what about you? Do you have these weird obsessive tendencies?
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.