This past week I looked at two books that had great titles, but after I started them, I almost immediately realized they were not what I am in the mood for this week.*
The first was Arnold Weinstein's Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life's Stages Through Books, a scholarly book with different sections on different periods in a person's life, and the literature he has found that sums up the human condition at those various times in our lives. It's not a bad idea, but after I nearly fell asleep reading the following paragraph (in the introduction, mind you) I knew I'd be taking this book back to the library unread.
"And, of course, that is what I am arguing in this book: that literature shows us who we are; it never stops doing this. I've posited this view before, but never with quite the personal conviction that you'll see in the pages aghead. This (very likely valedictory) book also constitutes something of a conclusion to my career. The ground I cover--from Sophocles and Shakespeare to Art Spiegelman and Jonathan Safran Foer--represents pretty much a roll call of the works of literature I've dealt with over a lifetime, but I now undersand that they illuminate my own lifetime. And the personal voice I've allowed myself throughout this book is a voice that finds both its matter and its manner, its substance and its timbre, in the books I love." (p. xiv.)
Blah, blah. A lot of the authors he cites are not ones that do anything for me, either, including William Faulkner and Jonathan Safran Foer (one of my all-time least favorites, as a matter of fact).
The other book was titled All about Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion, and it's by Lisa Appignanesi. I didn't get far enough in it to do it much justice in a summary, but I think the author considers different types of love--new crushes, lust, friendship, familial love, etc.--and describes how all of those types have been described in literature, pop culture, and other references, as well as how she's experienced it in her own life. It was all right, but it wasn't doing a whole lot for me either, and its due date was rapidly approaching, so I just took it back. Very disappointing--I kind of had high hopes for both these titles. Perhaps they were both just too philosophical for me for summer/autumn reading.
*I'm not sure what I am in the mood for this week. I've been doing the crosswords in my New York magazine, and bouncing back and forth between a William Langewiesche title and a science fiction novel.