Monday, February 25, 2008

The Book You'll Never Write


Today, during a noon hour browse at my university bookstore, I bought a most intriguing book by George Steiner titled My Unwritten Books. Its arresting cover image prompted me to pick it up, and its premise, as revealed by a quick flip through, proved irresistible. The book is comprised of seven chapters, each of which describes a book that Steiner hoped to write but didn't. The reasons for not writing them are as diverse as the topics the unwritten books were to have addressed. The jacket copy catalogues some of those reasons as follows: "Because intimacies and indiscretions were too threatening. Because the topic brought too much pain. Because its emotional or intellectual challenges proved beyond his capacities."

I have no doubt that you'll hear more from me about this book as I read my way through it. But in the meantime, I invite you to think about the books you'll never write. There's been a meme circulating recently which calls on participants to list the identifying features of a book they would write ("10 signs a book has been written by me"). So how about something of a counter-meme? Tell me about the book you'll never write, the one you'd like to tackle but won't, and why not.

7 comments:

Cam said...

Your counter-meme is almost irresistible. Almost because sleep beckons at the moment, but I do want to do this soon. Can't wait to see what others write about what they'll never write.

litlove said...

I'm very interested in this book too, Kate, so I'll be watching to see what you make of it! I like the thought of a counter-meme as well!

LK said...

Geez, what an easy way to write a book...would this be called deconstruction?

Mark Thwaite said...

This is an excellent book, perhaps Steiner's finest. And it cannot have been easy to write at all. On each of the seven books he didn't write he has penned an exquisite essay that both acts as a wonderful precis of what might have been and also an eloquent and very personal account of why it never was.

But, far more importantly than that, what a gorgeous cover for the US edition. The UK edition cover is horrid!!

NigelBeale said...

Here's a wonderful interview with Steiner. It says part two...not sure where part one got too...but as I recall he talks a bit about My Unwritten Books...

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2088343633743069100&q=literary+critic+steiner&total=5&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=4

...or in case that's not working, try here: http://nigelbeale.com/?p=583

JCR said...

Love the premise here... I feel that if I don't get going, I'll never start... so, why start? Nevermind me, I am making no sense today... hope you are fine.

Mindy Withrow said...

I'm afraid the novel I'm supposed to be writing is going to fall into this category! Partly because the "indiscretions were too threatening" and partly because it just takes so much discipline to keep writing.

Thanks for the heads-up about this book---I'll be checking it out.