Books of the Year

Somewhere in Virginia Woolf's Diary, volume 4, which I've been reading, a few pages a night at bedtime for a year (Paris bed), she asks a writer friend if he ever buys books. "Nope," he says. "Me neither," she says, and they conclude they can hardly complain if no one buys their books. (I once heard Hélène Cixous rage to her seminar that nobody bought her books, so I guess we all love it when people do buy our books. I do, I know.)

Each year for the past few years the Times Lit Supp has asked me to write 150 words max about the best books I've read in the current year, a short paragraph to be published under my name in bold print (see current issue of TLS). Very flattering. Not, the editor stipulates, books from 0ther Years, and not my friends' or lovers' or husband's or wife's or publishers' books.

Now I almost never buy books hot off the press...I don't buy books unless I want to keep them, which means I mostly buy poetry books, because my house is small, my shelves are full and it's very hard to discard books, even books I have several copies of (different family members had their own, for school, say). Sometimes I lay them on the top of the paper-recycling bin, hoping someone will adopt them, but even that feels like a betrayal.

Poetry Magazine, for which I wrote a review this month, asked me (and several others) what books we were currently reading, for their blog.