I'll even try to read "Howard's End."
The other day, I glimpsed a paperback of E.M. Foster's novel peeking out from my bedroom bookshelf. The book's been resting there for years unread.
Never mind that Foster's mantra "only connect" looks out-of-place in this era of social distancing. I've read through most of the other books that have been nestling dormant in my home library, so I've come to my end, as well as Howard's.
During the coronavirus pandemic, I've acquired just one new book, Nelson Algren's appreciation of Chicago, "City on the Make." Fearful of catching Covid-19 from some unmasked sneezing bibliophile, I've given up my longtime habit of going to bookstores.
My well-worn Nook e-reader stopped downloading new books and magazines, and I couldn't figure out how to change the software.
Yes, I could buy books online, but I'm boycotting Amazon, now running those absurd TV commercials about what an enlightened company it is. Besides, no recently published books interest me.
Even the libraries have been closed. The Sandy Springs Library that reopened only a couple of months before the pandemic is now doing curbside checkouts of books placed on hold, but the procedure seems as cumbersome as a Hartsfield-Jackson's TSA line.
So, I've been rediscovering books on my bookshelves, many of them I had never read or in which I lasted for only a chapter or two. I've tried to reread books I loved years before, but for some reason, I'm usually unable to return to once beloved narratives. Although I enjoyed Vivian Gornick's recent "Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader," I can't rekindle the literary flame.
Even before the pandemic, my bookstore habit had been reduced to the Peach Shopping Center's Barnes & Noble, the only bookstore left in Buckhead after the collapse of Atlanta's Oxford stores and the Borders chain. Atlanta's few remaining independent bookstores are too far away for frequent visits. Although Buckhead enjoys a profusion of supermarkets and pharmacy chains, it's a book desert.
The old Buckhead Borders, where I covered a book signing of George W. and Laura Bush and whiled away many hours, is now a Container Store. During Borders' expansive years, I also frequented a couple other of its stores.
Oxford's flagship store in Peachtree Battle Shopping Center was one of my favorite all-time bookstores, along with the also vanished Maple Street Bookstore in New Orleans and Scribner's in New York City. I also searched for books in two other Oxford locations in Buckhead. Alas, the Oxford empire like Borders overextended, and fell when the book bubble burst. The country must have gotten dumber before electing the great unread Orange man.
As with canceled sports, I haven't missed going to the B&N, where I interviewed Rolling Stones pianist and Georgia preservationist Chuck Leavell and glimpsed Elton John flipping through the vinyl records. The Peach B&N had reduced its selection over the years, emphasizing puzzles, games and accessories. It did appear on an upswing before the pandemic arrived, but the nearness of a coughing patron in February sent my paranoia soaring.
I miss perusing literary journals and film and jazz magazines, but I receive several literary magazines and three daily newspapers at my home. I've been surprised to find Harper's and the Atlantic at my local Publix, although the latest Harper's hasn't shown up yet.
Even before the rise of Covid-19, I discovered on my shelves an engaging volume of Alice Adams short stories. Lately, I've enjoyed the late English professor and literary critic Robert Heilman's memoirs about his days at LSU during the Huey Long era and the heyday of the Southern Review under Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks.
I've recently enjoyed pleasant afternoons browsing through Mike Davis's analysis of Los Angeles, "City of Quartz," and a collection of W.H. Auden's forewords and afterwords.
While I haven't yet returned to Auden's poems, I haven't slighted poetry, delving into a collection of Paul Muldoon's collected poems my daughter won as a literary prize at Princeton and favorite poems by Richard Wilbur and others.
In a pinch, Seymour Krim and Dan Wakefield gave good doses of 1950s and 1960s New York nostalgia.
Now, "Howard's End."