There is usually a gap between what I read and what I aspire to read. I just finished a long story called “The Santaland Diaries,” from a book by Dave Sedaris called Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays. “The Santaland Diaries” is an hilarious and unsentimental description of Sedaris’ stint as a Christmas elf at Macy’s in New York City, a job he took to support himself while he was still an unknown writer. I am reading Sedaris at the insistence of a friend, who lent me her copy of Barrel Fever. I am glad she did, because he is a very funny writer, sort of the next generation’s answer to Woody Allen.
So, what do I aspire to read? The answer is “Paradise Lost,” which is generally thought of as the greatest long poem in English. The occasion is that 2008 is the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Milton, who dictated “Paradise Lost” to his daughter after he went blind. Many years ago in college I had a professor who was an expert on Milton and his enthusiasm for this poem about God, Lucifer, Adam, and Eve was contagious. Now I intend to read the poem again (it’s as long as a book) and see if I can still appreciate it after all these years.
Yes, I will get around to “Paradise Lost” any day now, but first there are still some unread stories in Barrel Fever. ——David Hillman, Library Director